How old are you? Do you have kids? How is your health? Have you ever been arrested?

Legal or illegal? That is the question. Almost any “legal” information about you is “illegal” for someone to ask in an interview – age, marital status, country of origin, religion, sexual preference, health status or criminal background.

OK, they’re illegal, but what do you do when you are asked an illegal question in an interview?

  • You can answer the question and move on. Begin to listen for other unprofessional questions – do you see a pattern? Start to consider if this is the place for you.
  • Don’t answer the question as asked. State that it is an illegal question and that you’re not sure how it relates to the job. You might be perceived as a “trouble maker” or “one of those self-righteous people” – and you may not be asked back. Do you want to be asked back?
  • Think about the reason behind the question. What are they concerned about? What is the interviewer attempting to discover? State that you are not sure how that relates to the job, but that you can assure them that it is not an issue.

Example:

Q: What is your marital status?
(Concern – are you a stable person? Or – are you able to put in extra hours on projects, or – are your family obligations going to take up too much time? Will you get pregnant?)

A: That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure how that relates to this job, but I can assure you my work comes as a high priority in my life no matter what is happening in my personal life.

Q: This job can be strenuous at times. Do you think you could perform the duties required at your age?
(Concern – are you tired or burned out? Will you be able to handle multiple-tasks and pressure?)

A: I can assure you I am in fine physical condition and have proved myself in my previous jobs. I am often admired for unyielding energy.

Think about how you would handle an illegal or “gray area” question. Do a little preparation beforehand. It could spare you some embarrassing moments if you are asked an uncomfortable question and don’t have an answer.

There’s going to be a “whole lot of” hiring going on. How will you stand out as THE candidate to hire?