During the job search and hiring process, it can seem like there are hundreds of possible questions you must prepare to answer prior to the interview. It's important to note that there are quite a few interview questions that are illegal for potential employers to ask. It is up to you to decide if you want to answer them, but it's easy to get caught off-guard. To prepare yourself, consider the following off-limits interview questions.
"Where are You Originally From?"
This question may come at the beginning of the interview, and it sounds a lot like polite small talk. The underlying meaning, however, walks the line of appropriateness. Since it is illegal for an employer to outright ask you about your ethnic background, some interviewers tip toe around this by using questions like this one to get the information they want. You have different options for how to handle this. First, you can ignore the underlying meaning and give an answer such as "I grew up in Kentucky." This probably isn't really what the interviewer wants to know, but it is a perfectly acceptable answer to the question and might discourage the interviewer from probing further.
"Do You Plan to Start a Family Someday?"
This question seems innocent enough, and fits so perfectly into small talk that it can seem like the interviewer just wants to get to know you better. However, inquiring about marital status or children during the interview is off-limits, because a company could come under fire for discriminating against you for taking parental leave or time off to care for a child. If you're faced with this question during the interview, understand that you do not have to give up any information. If possible, subtly steer the conversation back to the opportunity and your qualifications. Saying something like "Right now, I'm more focused on this opportunity and what I can bring to your company," should be enough to get the interviewer to back off.
"I See You Went to XYZ School. That Must Have Set You Back a Few Bucks."
It may seem like the interviewer is impressed with your educational background, but he may be trying to inquire about your outstanding debt or financial situation. This is a common concern for companies in the financial industry, but it is still a no-no to inquire about a candidate's financial background, says Vivian Giang with Business Insider. Even if the interview is for a financial position, you are under no obligation to answer questions about your credit, debt or finances. If the topic comes up, simply say you are uncomfortable discussing your finances and leave it at that. The interviewer should take the hint.
When faced with an inappropriate or illegal question, it may seem as if you should answer anyway, especially if you really want the job. However, an interviewer who crosses the line should serve as a red flag that maybe this job or this company isn't right for you. Try to avoid answering, and steer the conversation back to your qualifications. If that doesn't work, you have every right to simply end the interview.
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