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Inquiries you don’t have to answer

Questions, questions and more questions. Your interviewer fires them at you, one straight after the other. It feels like nothing is off limits.

But, wait — that’s actually not true. There are plenty of questions that are completely illegitimate and that you should never be asked (let alone forced to answer) in any sort of job interview.

Here’s the big thing you need to keep in mind: If the question doesn’t directly pertain to the position you’re interviewing for, you should be wary. And, ultimately, you absolutely have the power to decline answering anything that makes your stomach do backflips.

A few of the most common illegal — but sometimes asked — questions:

1. Are you married?

Any question that attempts to dig into your current relationship status should be totally off limits. So, whether the interviewer asks if your last name is a married name or if the ring on your finger is an engagement band, don’t feel like you need to dive into the details of your personal life. That’s not what you’re there for.

2. Are you planning to have children in the next five years?

This is another thing that simply isn’t the employer’s business. Yes, your kids may come up in small talk — and that’s fine, as long as you’re comfortable with it. But, you absolutely don’t need to directly address the current state of your family or your plans with the interviewer.

3. Can you tell us (something confidential) about your previous employer?

Whether interviewers want to know about a specific process, piece of technology or anything else related to how that company does things, it’s best to keep your mouth shut.

4. Do you have any medical conditions?

Some jobs come with certain physical requirements. And interviewers are able to check those boxes in a more roundabout and legitimate way by asking questions like, “Are you capable of lifting 50 pounds?” 

However, this doesn’t mean they get to know all of the intimate details of your medical history. If questions come up about any sort of conditions or ailments, simply explain that it’s not something you’re willing to discuss in a professional interview and move on.

5. What is your religious affiliation/sexual orientation/political preference?

If anything like this is asked in your interview, you are more than justified in explaining that you find the question inappropriate. And, after that? You probably want to evaluate whether this is the sort of place you want to work.

6. How old are you?

If you’re asked this, simply state that you’re over the age of 18 and legally able to work in the United States, and leave it at that. Ultimately, that’s all they need to know.

7. Have you ever been arrested?

Potential employers absolutely can ask if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. However, they are not allowed to ask if you’ve ever been arrested. The two are entirely different.