What Employers Can and Can’t Ask You in an Interview

There are many steps involved in getting a job.  One critical part of the hiring process is the interview.  Over the past few years, many employers have opted for virtual interviews rather than just meeting in person. One part of the interview that hasn’t changed is what employers can and can’t ask you during the interview (regardless of the format).

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Per the EEOC, “It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant due to race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

Employers should only ask you questions related to your ability to do the job.  The following are examples of illegal interview questions along with questions the employer is allowed to ask you.

Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen?
Legal: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?

Illegal: What religion are you?
Legal: What days are you available to work?

Illegal: Do you have children?
Legal: Are you able to work overtime if needed?

Illegal: How old are you?
Legal: Are you at least 18 years old?

Illegal: Do you have any disabilities?
Legal: Are you able to perform all the duties in the job description?

This is just a short list of questions you can’t be asked during an interview.  In most cases, the interviewer might not know they’re asking an illegal question.  Human Resources staff should know what is and isn’t appropriate; however, some managers might not be aware of inappropriate questions.  If a question makes you uncomfortable, you can politely decline to answer it.  If an employer asks questions unrelated to the position, it might be a sign that you shouldn’t work for the company.

Do you still have questions about interviewing?  All BU students enrolled in degree programs can access Big Interview through Handshake. Big Interview is an online mock interview system that helps you prepare effectively by improving your interview technique, practicing answers to tough questions, and building your confidence. Click here for more information on this valuable resource.

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