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Which interview questions are illegal?

Asking the right interview questions won't just help you evaluate candidates effectively; it'll also ensure you comply with labor legislation. And that's particularly important considering that one illegal interview question could cost your company money, ruin your reputation and disrupt your business operation.

However, it's often hard to distinguish between questions that are safe to ask and those that could raise legal risks. Do you want to give it a try?

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

Illegal interview questions quiz

This quiz consists of 10 questions – these are questions that might be asked by a recruiter or a hiring manager during an interview. For each one, you will determine whether it’s safe or risky for the interviewer to ask candidates that question, based on the possibility of legal risks that could be raised in asking. The consequences of non-compliance can be debilitating both in terms of budget and employer brand, so it’s best to ensure that everyone in your hiring team – and your company – is fully versed on proper protocol when interviewing candidates.

Once you’ve answered all questions, check your total score to see how you’ve done. We’ll provide you with feedback for each question and give you alternatives for the risky ones. Note that we won’t share your answers with anyone (we’re not collecting the data).

Below the quiz, you can also find some useful tips and resources that’ll help you improve your interview process.

Good luck!

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To create this quiz, we took into account the labor legislation of the majority of countries around the globe (for example, Equal Employment Opportunity laws in the US, EU directive, etc.) The examples that we use in the quiz may not be illegal per se, but they could raise legal risks for your organization. When interviewing candidates, we recommend checking local labor regulations and even consult a lawyer to ensure you ask questions that are fair and don’t discriminate against candidates’ protected characteristics.

If you have 0-4 correct answers:

Uh oh! In between looking for the perfect candidate and trying to understand complex labor laws, it’s easy to fall in the trap of unintentionally asking illegal interview questions. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get into legal trouble. You could, though, lose qualified candidates who might get offended by what you or your team asked. And even if that doesn’t happen, many of these questions indicate that interviewers’ criteria are not entirely job-related and objective. Check below for some useful tips that’ll help you be compliant and free of biases when you interview candidates.

If you have 5-8 correct answers:

Good job! You managed to identify many of the potentially illegal questions. There are still some tricky ones, though; at first glimpse, some interview questions seem innocent but could raise legal risks. Or, they could hurt your company’s reputation if candidates suspect that you evaluate them based on subjective criteria (e.g. whether they live close by) as opposed to job-related requirements. Scroll down for some useful tips and resources that’ll help you build a bias-free (and legal!) hiring process.

If you have 9-10 correct answers:

Congrats! Looks like you’re an expert interviewer – or have studied labor legislation really hard! Keep up the good work and make sure to avoid interview questions that despite seeming innocent, have nothing to do with evaluating candidates’ skills. Also, remember that hiring is not a one-person job. Your communication with candidates should be professional and compliant with local regulations throughout the hiring process; from a simple email or quick phone call that a recruiter makes them to the final interview that they have with one of the company’s executives. Sync with everyone who’s involved with hiring to ensure you build a positive candidate experience. Have a look at the interviewing tips and resources below.

Making sure you don’t ask illegal interview questions

Here are a few quick ways that will help avoid asking illegal interview questions that – even subconsciously – discriminate against candidates:

  • Write down and review your questions before going into the interviews. Are all questions strictly job-related or should you skip some of them?
  • Include specific requirements (e.g. availability to work during weekends or physical abilities) in your job ads. This way, you’ll minimize the number of non-qualified applicants. During interviews, confirm that candidates are aware of and can handle these requirements.
  • Limit small talk with candidates to safe topics; interviews are your way to learn whether candidates have the skills to perform their job duties and not to discuss their personal background, family status, religious beliefs, political views or any other irrelevant to the job matters.
  • Background checks, references from previous employers and drug tests are legal ways to get useful information about candidates that can help you decide whether to extend a job offer or not.

In case you’re not sure whether you have the legitimate right to ask something during an interview, it’s best to consult a lawyer first. Also, coordinate with the entire hiring team to ensure you all understand what’s acceptable to ask during an interview and what’s not. Start by sharing with them this quiz so they can see where they stand!

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