5 Job Interview Questions You Never Have to Answer — and Here’s Why

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Despite your best efforts, you can never predict exactly what’s going to happen during a job interview. Sometimes a hiring manager asks a question that completely stumps you.

Other times, an interviewer crosses the line, whether they mean to or not. While personal queries aren’t illegal interview questions per se, they are inappropriate.

Plus, prying into someone’s personal life could run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Here are five questions you shouldn’t have to discuss — and some tips on how to respond if an interviewer asks them anyway.

1. How old are you?

Job interviewers are welcome to dig into your work experience and education, but they shouldn’t ask about your age. Every state has a law that protects workers from age-related discrimination. If your interviewer asks how old you are, they’re wading into murky waters.

Plus, the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects workers over the age of 40. “Nobody can be rejected from a role for simply being too old,” said HR consultant Steve Pritchard. “If the skills are there, they deserve the same opportunity as people younger than them, and must be judged on the same merits, regardless of age.”

Chances are, an employer won’t ask you this question point blank. But they could go about it in a subtle way, like asking when you graduated from high school or college. If you sense an interviewer could use your age against you, steer the conversation back toward your relevant skills and experiences.

“You can refuse to answer the question,” said Pinar Ozcelik and Cameron Atkinson from SuperCareer.com. “Or make a joke out of it by saying: ‘My age is a secret, but I am old enough to work for you.’ Remember that you have no obligation to provide any information that could reflect your age.”

Of course, some employers will ask for your date of birth or identification to run a background check. But if you suspect an employer has used your age against you, consider filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

2. Do you have kids, or are you planning to?

Over 75 percent of senior-level women in tech are asked about kids, family, or marriage, according to a recent survey. Inappropriate questions about family life and plans especially affect women. Employers could turn down an applicant they expect to take maternity leave in the future.

Employers might also assume someone with a family needs extra time off or can’t keep regular hours. If work schedule is a concern, an interviewer can ask about your time commitment or ability to travel. But personal questions about kids or family should be off the table.

Valerie Streif, a senior advisor at The Mentat, said hiring managers might seek this information in subtle ways. “’Do you ever get overwhelmed?’ is a sneaky question,” said Streif. “It could be a way for them to figure out if you are good with time management, or it could be more malicious to obtain personal information about what you have going on outside the office.”

So, how can you respond if you get inappropriate (though technically not illegal) interview questions like these? Jennine Leale, CEO of HR Pro Consulting Services, suggested telling the interviewer it isn’t a concern and won’t interfere with your ability to do the job.

“Even if you know fully well you may get pregnant, are pregnant, have children … it’s none of their business,” said Leale. “You are protected by law.”

3. Are you married?

Inquiring about your relationship status is another job interview no-no. Interviewers may ask about your personal life as a way to get to know you. But they could also be making assumptions about your level of commitment to the job. Worst case scenario, someone could use this intel to discriminate against your sexual orientation.

It’s a red flag if the interviewer asks what your significant other thinks of you taking on a job, said Streif. “[This] shows they are trying to fish to see if you have a family or are married, but it can appear subtle, so sometimes interviewers get away with it,” she said.

If you sense an interviewer is veering into overly personal territory, steer the conversation back to the job at hand.

4. What country are you or your parents from?

Questions about national origin, race, or ethnicity are another problem applicants face. Although an employer can ask if you’re a U.S. citizen, they shouldn’t pry into where exactly you or your ancestors are from. That’s because job applicants are protected from discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or national origin.

“Your best answer for any of these questions if you do not feel comfortable answering them is: ‘Yes, I am legally authorized to work in the United States,’” said Ozcelik and Atkinson.

If you’re worried about these types of borderline illegal interview questions, another potential response is to talk about where you’re currently living. Or, you could honestly tell the interviewer you’re not comfortable with the question. A competent interviewer will realize they crossed the line and reverse course.

5. What was your salary in your last job?

Many employers ask about past salaries, but in some cities and states that question is against the law. Philadelphia, New York City, and Massachusetts, for instance, all bar hiring managers from asking about past salaries.

These laws are a way to address the gender pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women earn 20 percent less than men for the same job. If employers base their salary decisions on past salaries, they’ll just keep up this divide.

Before heading into an interview, prepare to talk about salary expectations. Even if it isn’t against the law for them to ask in your state, you don’t have to tell them (and most times it’s in your best interest not to tell them).

Instead, talk about the value you’ll bring to the position they’re interviewing you for, and what that’s worth. Discuss your expected salary, not your current or past.

Know your rights during a job interview

Although you might have to answer a lot of questions during an interview, there are some that shouldn’t come up. While the questions themselves aren’t illegal, discriminating against someone based on their answers is.

It’s in the best interest of both job-seekers and job interviewers to avoid asking about these areas:

  • Age
  • Marital status or family
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Disability

Some hiring managers might not realize they’re asking borderline illegal interview questions. Gauging for “cultural fit,” for instance, can cause some interviewers to pry too much into someone’s personal life.

But focusing on these areas leaves companies vulnerable to discrimination complaints. While tough to prove, discrimination claims arise when an applicant feels they were treated unfairly on the basis of age, gender, or another aspect of their identity.

“Under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual … because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” said Robert Odell, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles.

How to handle inappropriate or illegal interview questions

Unfortunately, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation during a job interview. Some interviewers might disregard these anti-discrimination rules. Others might simply be unaware of inappropriate or illegal questions to ask in an interview. Some could just be making small talk without realizing the error of their ways.

If you still really want the job, you could simply say the question doesn’t affect your commitment to the position. Or, you could say you don’t feel comfortable sharing that part of your identity, but you’re happy to talk about other relevant experiences.

If you experience discrimination, you could take legal recourse. To proceed, contact a lawyer or your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. They’ll instruct you on filing a claim with the EEOC.

By knowing your rights as an applicant, you can prepare to handle any off-limits or illegal interview questions that come your way.

For more on preparing for interviews, here are the most common job interview questions and how to answer them.

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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

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