To Ask or Not To Ask: What Interview Questions are Illegal

A job interview is the time to get to know a candidate and find out if they are a good fit for the job and your company. But even in a casual office environment, where the conversation is honest and open, there are certain questions that you legally want to steer clear of. You cannot, and really should not, ask questions that could lead to the perception that your hiring decisions are based on discriminatory factors. Keep the interview focused on a candidate’s objective qualifications and ability to do the job as outlined in the job description.

Stay in the safe zone. Here are examples of interview questions to ask and not to ask:


Interview Questions To Ask

Interview Questions Not To Ask

Are you legally authorized to work in the U.S.? Are you a U.S. citizen?
What is your current address and phone number? Do you have any alternative locations where you can be reached? How long have you lived here?
What days are you available to work? Which religious holidays do you observe?
Are you a member of a professional or trade group that is relevant to our industry? Do you belong to a club or social organization?
Are you over the age of 18? How old are you?
What are you long-term career goals? How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?
What are you long-term career goals? If you get pregnant, will you continue to work and will you come back after maternity leave?
Tell me about your previous experience managing teams. How do you feel about supervising men/women?
Are you able to lift boxes up to 50 lbs? How much do you weigh?
Are you able to perform the essential functions of this position? Do you have any disabilities?
Are you able to perform the essential functions of this position with or without reasonable accommodations? Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations?
Tell me about how your experience and the skills you acquired in the military can benefit the company. Were you honorably discharged from the military?
Do you have any upcoming events that would require extensive time away from work? Are you a member of the National Guard or Reserve?


Centering the conversation on the job will keep you, as the hiring manager or decision maker, away from illegal interview questions. It will also help you gain the most insightful information about the candidate. Keep the job description in front of you and focus on the skills necessary to fulfill that role. In this way, you will be in good shape to stay on legal ground during the hiring process and identify the right candidate.

Legal Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal information or advice. This information and all Coastal Payroll materials are provided in consultation with federal and state statutes and do not encompass other regulations that may exist, such as local ordinances. Transmission of documents or information through the Coastal Payroll does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.