Have you been in a situation where you weren’t sure the person interviewing was asking legal questions?
Are YOU asking inappropriate questions on your end?
Let’s explore what legal rights you have when being interviewed.
Before you go into the interview, take time to list out the questions you have.
It is best to be prepared and not ask questions off the cuff. When asking questions, you are just as liable to keep the conversation legal as the employer is.
Knowing what is, or is not, legal for the employer to ask is also important. You’re planning ahead just by reading this post!
No Discriminatory Questions Allowed
This one may seem like a given, but I had a recently interviewed client who was asked all kinds of questions about their family. Are you married? How many kids do you have? How old are they?
These may seem like innocuous ‘get to know you’ type questions and they are technically not illegal. It IS illegal for a company to make hiring decisions based on family status so there are really no reasons for these types of questions to be raised.
The other discriminatory question topics not allowed include health, age, race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, disability, religion, financial status, genetic information, height and weight, pregnancy status, drug or alcohol use, citizen status, and even previous compensation in some states.
Background Check Information is Off Limits
It is common practice for employers to make an offer contingent on background checks or other various factors, like a physical capability test or drug screen.
This is okay after the interview process.
During though, the line is incredibly thin as to what can and cannot be asked.
It all depends on if it is relevant to the position.
For example, if you are going for a nursing position you might be asked if you have any elder abuse charges.
If you are applying for a sales associate, being asked if you have any elder abuse charges would definitely not be relevant to the position and illegal.
During the interview process, if an interviewer gives misleading information to you as a candidate, they are opening themselves up for a lawsuit.
An interviewer can not make promises to increase pay after a few months, or commission-based promises, health benefits, etc. All of these happen to fall under an implied contract. Should they fail to make good, they could attract legal claims and penalties.
What to do If You’re Asked an Illegal Question
You can do one of 3 things:
1. Answer the question. You have every right to answer the question if you would like. Consider the intent of the question first, though. Are they asking you when you graduated high school because you went to the same school and want to know if you bumped into each other? If you are comfortable answering, then go for it.
2. Avoid the question. Let’s say the interviewer asks if you are willing to take on the occasional night or weekend. This can be a sneaky way to find out if you have kids, which can then be used in discriminatory hiring practices. To avoid the question, you could respond by saying “I can assure you my personal life will not interfere with my professional life.”
3. Ask the relevance. You are well within your rights to ask how the question relates to the position you’ve applied for. If they have no answer, they may realize the mistake they’ve made and move on. If they persist but there is no relevancy, you can flat out refuse to answer or you can excuse yourself from the interview.
Below are some helpful examples of what types of questions are illegal vs. legal in an interview.
Illegal: Who do you live with? Do you own or rent your home?
Legal: What is your current address? How long have you been there? What is your previous address?
Illegal: What year were you born?
Legal: Are you old enough to work in this position? (This is acceptable if it’s an age-dependent position, such as a bar.)
Illegal: Do you have a car?
Legal: Do you have a reliable way to get to work?
Illegal: Are you a US citizen?
Legal: Are you legally eligible to work in the US?
Illegal: Do you have a bank account? How much money is in your savings or checkings?
Legal: There are almost no legal questions for credit. It is best if this topic is avoided altogether.
Illegal: Do you have a disability? Have you ever filed workman’s compensation?
Legal: Are you able to perform the duties of this job?
Illegal: Are you a member of the local country club?
Legal: What professional organizations are you affiliated with?
Now that you have a good idea about what can and cannot be discussed during an interview, you can head in with extra confidence. Good luck!
Resume Assassin is ready to help you land an interview!
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