Job Interviews: Illegal Questions

Job Interviews: Illegal Questions
It is illegal for an interviewer to ask certain questions at your job interview. Be aware of what they can and cannot ask you.

The questions which you will encounter in your job interview for a private school teaching job depend on the experience and skill of your interviewer. Most of the time the interviewer will be well-trained and experienced. She will ask questions which are legal. However, you should be aware that even the most experienced interviews can and do slip up occasionally and ask questions which are illegal according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of l964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” Put another way, you have rights and it is very important that you know and understand them.

Read Daniel Bortz' article on, Illegal interview questions that employers shouldn't ask you. That will give you an overview of how things work in the corporate world as well as in small business like private schools. The problem with small organizations is that they don't always have the human resources professionals on staff to remind them of legalities such as what you can and cannot ask at a job interview.

Here are some of the things which are considered illegal for the interviewer to ask about. Incidentally, both federal and state laws consider questions about these issues illegal.

  • Race, Color, or National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation
  • Pregnancy status
  • Disability
  • Age or Genetic Information
  • Citizenship
  • Marital Status or Number of Children

So, what do you do when an interviewer asks about any of these things? Don't answer. Depending on the situation, you could even open a case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after the interview. In many cases, you will be asked questions which should not be asked simply because the employer has not trained the interviewer correctly. However, that would be a red flag for me, because if the employer is so disorganized that he hasn't trained his interviewers not to ask illegal questions, then I would have serious questions about how the school is managed.

Race, Color, or National Origin; Citizenship

National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace offers a detailed overview of this issue. Be aware that you cannot be asked about your race, color, or your national origin. The same thing applies to your citizenship with one small difference: an employer cannot ask you about your citizenship BEFORE it hires you. On the other hand, many schools have enrolled in E-Verify so your right to work in the U.S. will be verified after you have accepted the job offer. Review Documentation Required to Work in the United States to understand the documentation required. Asking what languages a candidate is fluent in is a fair question only where the job requirements specify fluency in a language other than English.


You would think in this age of #MeToo that questioning a women's competence simply because she is a woman would no longer be on the table. Unfortunately, change comes about slowly, as we both know. Read the insightful article by Angela Smith 5 Illegal Interview Questions and How to Dodge Them Angela's strategies and advice make great sense. Answering questions in a job interview really hinges on your ability to be quick on your feet. You need to listen carefully both to protect yourself and to answer the questions asked.

Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation

Here is yet another area in which interviewers can make mistakes and ask illegal questions. Furthermore, if you see questions like these on a job application, you do not have to answer them. Read Attorney Julie Brook's overview of the subject:. Job Interview Questions: Steer Clear of Sex Identity and Sexual Orientation

Prepare for your interview.

In the course of many years of interviews for one of my employers, I saw all sorts and conditions of applicants. Most of the time my experience enabled me to make a fairly good guess as to what the truth was. In most cases, it didn't matter because my interview questions focused on the ability of the applicant to do the job. Did she have the skills we needed to be successful? Was she a quick study? The answers to those questions mattered more to us than almost everything else.

Better Team has a useful article which includes a long table with detailed questions that are permitted and ones which are not. Review the information and understand how it might pertain to a job interview. Speaking of reviewing information, I recommend that you practice interviewing with a trusted advisor, friend or career coach. Interviews are nerve-wracking enough without being thrown off your game by an unexpected or illegal question. My advice applies in particular to anyone who has not interviewed in several years. Don't be complacent. Prepare for your private school job interview just as carefully as you did when you took your GMAT. The job market is very competitive everywhere. In a private school where teachers are the front line for the school and key contributors to the school's reputation, hiring the right person is extremely important.

Vivian Giang offers good advice in 11 Common Interview Questions That Are Actually Illegal which she wrote for Business Insider.

This is precisely the kind of information you need to understand before you have your first interview. With any luck, you will be interviewed by an experienced, well-trained member of the school's staff who knows the drill. But, if for some reason you end up with somebody who asks questions which you know are illegal, you will be prepared. Finesse your answers by not answering the questions but instead focussing on your accomplishments and the attributes and the experience which you bring to the table.

Bottom line: you should prepare carefully for your interview. Read everything you can about the school and its mission. Learn how the academics are set up. Figure out which sport or extracurricular activity you can or want to manage. Being involved with the sports and extracurricular programs in a private school is not optional for private school teachers. Project your teaching or administrative career ahead a few years and make sure that this specific job opportunity fits in with your career goals.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @privateschoolreview

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