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Quinlan School of Business

Illegal Interviews

During an interview, you expect and are prepared to answer questions about how your skills and experiences can contribute to the position and company. Consequently, it can be very disconcerting to be asked questions about your private life or related personal matters. Personal questions in interviews are at best improper and at worst illegal.

Why might employers ask an illegal question? Employment laws have changed in recent years and sometimes it is difficult for employers to keep up with new developments in this area. They may not know it is unacceptable to ask certain questions. Often, candidates are asked improper questions because the interviewer is poorly trained and curious, not discriminatory. Employers may have legitimate concerns about reliability, willingness to travel or ability to work holidays, but they have not been trained in how to asses these issues through appropriate questions.

While it is frustrating to be asked such questions, you do not want to overact, especially if you are genuinely interested in the position. It is best to answer the question in an appropriate manner and, after you receive an offer, you can decide whether you really want to work for the manager or organization. There are several effective ways to deal with illegal or prying questions. Decide in advance which strategy you want to use and then practice it.


Answer the Question Assume that the interviewer is simply curious, means no harm and is unaware that people might be put off by such inquiries. This may be the most tactful and comfortable way to answer such questions You may feel that you must swallow your pride to stay in running for the job. Q: "Do you have children?"
A: "Yes, I have 2 children."
Address the Apparent Underlying Concern Ignore the improper question itself and respond instead to the concern underlying the question. You can present yourself in a positive light while still controlling the way you answer the question. Must be more prepared and rehearsed in answer with this method. Q: "Do you have children?"
A: "If you mean, 'Can I meet the demands of the job,' yes, I can."
Refuse to Answer the Question Tell the employer you think the question is improper. Using this response may make you feel better. You may make the interviewer feel ashamed or uncomfortable. This is also the most difficult strategy in which to remain tactful. Q: "Do you have children?"
A: "That's not a legal question. I'd rather cover other points."


The following are a few more improper interview questions and sample responses:

Q: Are you planning to get married soon? (or, Do you have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend?)
A: If you are concerned about my staying in the area or my ability to travel, I can assure you that I am looking forward to living in this area and travel has always been part of my job expectations.

Q: Do you plan to have children? (Sometimes asked of women candidates)
A: Regardless of whether I have children or not, my career will always be an important part of my life.

Q: What do your parents do? (Sometimes asked to find out how many contacts you might have for a sales job, typically in financial services.)
A: I'm not sure how this relates to the job. Can you please explain?

Q: What religion are you?
A: I really don't care to discuss religion. I'd love to tell you about some of my work successes, however.

Although we have highlighted a few common improper questions, this information is not intended to be comprehensive and cover all areas where illegal questions or discrimination might arise. If you need additional information about this subject, call the Business Career Center for an appointment.


Quinlan School of Business · 820 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312.915.7057 · quinlan@luc.edu · Privacy Policy

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