How to Answer Illegal Interview Questions


Picture this scenario: You're in a job interview and doing well until the interviewer asks you an illegal interview question, "What's your religion?"

It's natural to be stunned by this question. Besides, why would your religious beliefs matter in a job interview? You're not quite sure how to answer it, or whether you should answer at all. But if you don't answer, you might seem standoffish to the interviewer.

If you find yourself in this scenario, here are three ways to handle this situation, according to published reports:

  1. Answer. It's not illegal to answer an illegal interview question. However, if you choose to answer it, be succinct and clear.
  2. Refuse to Answer. Point out that it's not an appropriate job interview question and you don't feel comfortable answering it. Avoid using the word "illegal" in your answer; it might cause an already tense situation to become more uncomfortable.
  3. Tactfully Sidestep. Assess the motive behind the question. If you don't think it was malicious and you really want the job, put it back on the interviewer directly. This practice might make the interviewer realize that the question asked is inappropriate.

Here are some sample answers to illegal interview topics:

  • Personal life. You might respond with, "I prefer to keep personal and business matters separate."
  • Children. You might want to ask, "Are you concerned that I won't be able to travel or work overtime?"
  • Disability. Your response should be, "If you are concerned that I won't be able to perform the duties of this job, I'm sure I can."
  • Country of origin. You should say, "If you are going to ask next whether or not I'm authorized to work in the states, I am."

Answering these interview questions may not get you the job, but if you choose to use these answers above, you would have shown the interviewer that you could handle yourself with dignity and professionalism in uncomfortable situations.

For more information, visit the Veteran Jobs Center.

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