It’s best to approach any job interview expecting the unexpected. While there are some basic, standard-issue questions you can probably count on, there are almost always some weird, unexpected, or downright random questions that make their way into the process—making it vital for job candidates to be nimble, ready to think on their feet.
You should be ready for any question—including the ones your interviewer isn’t supposed to ask. Yes, there are some questions—of a personal or demographic nature—that interviewers are not supposed to ask. When they ask these questions, they open up their company to potential legal action.
Not that this stops them: A pretty high percentage of hiring managers ask these taboo questions—as many in one in five. So the odds are, if your job search process lasts very long, you’ll end up in an interview where one of these forbidden questions is asked.
And what are some of these questions? You can probably guess—but some definite no-nos include:
- Are you pregnant?
- What are your religious beliefs/affiliations and/or your political beliefs/affiliations?
- What is your race, color, or ethnicity?
- Are you in any way disabled?
- What is your marital status? Do you have children? Do you plan to?
- What is your financial status (i.e., are you in debt)?
- What are your social smoking/drinking habits?
And the biggest, most common one of all: How old are you?
To be clear: There is nothing illegal about asking any of these questions, but, in most contexts, they will imply a discriminatory motive, which most certainly is illegal, or at least grounds for you to bring a case against interviewers who ask these questions.
Not that we recommend getting litigious about it. What we recommend, first and foremost, is that you be ready to hear these questions. Second, be comfortable declining to answer these questions if you feel uncomfortable with them. And third, regard these as red flags; if an interviewer asks one of these questions, well, it may not be a healthy company culture that you’re seeking to join after all.