Illegal Job Interview Questions. How to handle the career ending landmine

illegal interview question
Don’t feel like you are at a crossroads when asked an illegal interview question. Be prepared

Should you answer the illegal interview question?

Your mom and your local HR rep would tell you that you don’t have to answer illegal interview questions. Here at CareerTracker, we say “Answer the question. Don’t think twice, just answer the question!” Treat the question as if this were any other interview question”. 

We don’t just say answer these questions, we say prepare for the illegal interview question.

Whacky? Maybe, but hear us out.

First and foremost, there are no illegal interview questions.

For the record, it is OK to ask a candidate, “How old are you?” What makes this question illegal is when the hiring company bases the hiring decision on our answer. The question itself may not be moral, but it is OK to ask.

Yes, yes, yes. We get it. If the hiring company is not able to use the answer in the decision-making process, why ask the question? Logic would dictate that the question would only be asked if the answer will affect the hiring decision, and yes, this does make it illegal. We get that. But let’s put that aside for just a moment.

Consider a few thoughts on the illegal interview question.

  1. The interviewer probably doesn’t know this question should not be asked in the interview. If they knew this question was going to potentially put the company at risk, they wouldn’t ask the question. Unfortunately, the interviewer just doesn’t know.
  2. If we get offended in the middle of the interview and react negatively, the interview is over. If we mention or accuse the interviewer of asking an illegal interview question, the interview is also over.
  3. We can assume that we don’t want to work for a company that asks an inappropriate question but remember, the interviewer just doesn’t know. We don’t want to jeopardize a great opportunity because of a single dumb ass. It’s not worth a great opportunity, so just answer the question.

Potentially illegal questions you should prepare for

  • Where do you live?  (Answer it)
  • How old are you? (Answer it)
  • I notice you are specifically dressed. Is this for religious reasons? (Answer it)
  • Are you on any prescription drugs? (Make no mention of any drugs that hint of mental health.)

Have answers ready

Here at CareerTracker, we suggest you have an answer to these interview questions so they don’t take you by surprise. Just state your answer as if it were any other interview question. After you land the job offer THEN you have a couple of options:

  1. Make suggestions to correct the interview process. We will make a bigger impact as an employee on the inside vs. an outsider who wants to get into the club when we give our feedback. 
  2. Decline the position.  It’s not what we say, it’s how we say it. If the inappropriate question was asked in an aggressive or accusatory fashion, that is a different matter. If you don’t think you can work with the person who asked because of who they are, we can decline the position. But at least we have the choice.

We want you to have a choice

Either way, we won’t have a choice if we don’t have an offer. Answer the question, land the offer and then make the decision. Don’t let the company make the decision on our behalf by declining us.

Key Takeaway: Don’t hesitate, answer the illegal interview question. Don’t get offended. Land the job first and then you can make the decision on how offended you want to be and whether or not you want the job.

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