7 Questions You’re Not Allowed to Ask in a Job Interview

After weeding through resumes for an open position, you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates. Now it’s time for the job interview. Figuring out if a person has the qualifications and personality to do the job with the team in place can be difficult. According to Jay Krulewitch, common civil rights violations include “unreasonable seizure, excessive force, and other claims, as well as related State Tort claims for false arrest, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, and related claims.” As an employer, there is always the possibility that you ask a question that shouldn’t be asked, and open yourself up to a lawsuit. The following 7 questions are ones that you are legally not allowed to ask in a job interview.

Interview Questions to Avoid

1. How old are you?

The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Asking a person how old he/she violates that law because it appears that you are making a decision based on age. Avoid it.

2. Are you Muslim/Catholic/Jewish/Christian/Atheist/etc.?

Again, asking the question during the interview violates the Act because it implies a preference. With the exception of religious institutions (churches, bible colleges, and similar), religious preference cannot be a basis for a job candidate.

3. Do you identify as male/female/trans/etc.?

This is a new one, but is treated the same as a person’s sex. Again, asking it during the interview implies a bias.

4. Are you black/Hispanic/Asian/etc.?

Referring again to the Federal Civil Rights Act, race (and color) cannot be determinants of hiring an employee. Admittedly, there are legitimate reasons to hire someone of a particular race/color for a certain job, such as hiring a Polynesian to play the part of a Polynesian in a play, but someone’s appearance in an interview should be adequate for that determination.

5. Where were you born?/Where are you from?

Someone may have an interesting accent that catches your ear, but asking about national origin is another of the illegal questions according to the Act.

6. Are you married?/Do you have kids?/Are you pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant?

Family/personal questions are off limits because they imply a preference that has nothing to do with the job.

7. Do you have any disabilities?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is another Federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace (and other locations) based on a person’s disabilities (mental and physical). Asking this question implies, again, that preference and bias.

Some Alternatives

There are jobs with “bona fide occupational qualifications” (BFOQ) that allow hiring decisions based on some otherwise discriminatory qualifications. Even so, the questions above (and many others like them) still cannot be asked. There are, however, alternatives that can give you a little more insight without more legal liability.


Hiring the right job candidate is a tough enough task without the threat of a lawsuit. Make sure you avoid these questions and ones like them, and you can focus on hiring a candidate that will ease your worries rather than create new ones.