6 illegal interview questions and how to respond to them

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There are certain questions that an interviewer simply should not be asking you. Questions pertaining to your age, nationality, marital status, religion and other personal information are all off-limits; these questions are discriminatory and most employers will therefore knowingly stay away from them.

That being said, you might still find yourself in a situation where an interviewer asks you an illegal question. Whether you believe there’s any ill-intent behind it or not, or that the person asking the question is even aware of their mistake, it’s important that you know how to handle the situation.

First and foremost, note that you are under no obligation to reply. You can politely refuse to answer or ask the interviewer why they’re asking you the question. Another option is to steer the conversation in a different direction, or even end the interview if it really doesn’t feel right.

If however, you choose to answer the question, there are some safe ways to do this without disclosing any personal information. Here are some example questions and how to reply to them:

1. How old are you?
The interviewer might wrongly take your age as an indicator of your level of experience or maturity. Instead of letting them draw their own conclusion based on how old you are, answer this question by highlighting your relevant skills and experience:

“I feel confident that I possess the level of experience and skill required for this role. I have a great deal of experience in [xyz], with my most recent achievement being [xyz]. I therefore believe I am fully equipped to work on the projects/tasks that you’ve mentioned.”

2. Where were you born?
The only thing that should be of importance to the interviewer is whether or not you have the legal right to work in the country where the job is based. Reassure them by saying:

“I’m fully eligible to work in [country].”

3. Where do you live?
Instead of giving them your address, emphasise how the distance from your home to work should not be a negative influence on your availability and punctuality:

“I will have no problem commuting and starting work at [time]”

4. Do you have any children or are you planning on having them?
The interviewer might worry that your personal life will hamper your flexibility. Emphasise that your personal commitments won’t get in the way of work:

“I find it important to keep my personal life separate from my professional life, and have never had any problems doing so.”

5. Are you religious?
Religious holidays that could potentially conflict with the work schedule might be of concern to the interviewer. Restate your availability by saying:

“I’m confident that I will be able to work according to the required schedule”.

6. Do you have any disabilities?
Questions about disability should only pertain to any special requirements needed to accommodate a candidate. Answer by emphasising the relevant skills and experience you have and saying:

“I’m fully capable of carrying out the different functions of this role due to my extensive experience in [xyz] that lead me to be fully skilled in [xyz].

If you choose to reply to an off-limits question, the first step is to try to assess what the interviewer is looking to find out. Is there perhaps another, more appropriate question they might have asked? If so, answer that one. In any case, remember that it’s your right to decline to answer and always do what you think is right.

Source: HN Global