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Many Hiring Managers Ask Illegal Questions During Interviews, Survey Finds

Questions to candidates about citizenship, race, disability, and other characteristics often skirt what’s allowed by law.

By Claire Zhao, Fast Company (TNS)

Throughout the hiring process, managers typically assess a candidate’s suitability for a role by investigating their experience, communication abilities, and other relevant professional attributes. Nevertheless, some hiring managers continue to overstep boundaries by probing into protected information such as age, identity, disabilities, or familial status.

Resume Builder study that surveyed 1,000 U.S. hiring managers found that one in three hiring managers say that they knowingly ask illegal questions. Here is what you need to know:

  • Hiring managers want to know how other priorities and situations affect employees’ ability to work: If you are a working parent, have a disability, or have religious and cultural commitments, managers may believe that there is a higher chance that you will ask for flexibility on matters that don’t comply with traditional business practices. In some cases, however, the hiring manager could also be asking these questions to give underrepresented demographics more support.
  • Men are more likely to knowingly ask illegal questions than women: Of the men surveyed, 38% admit to asking illegal questions, compared with 23% of women. Women are believed to ask illegal questions less often due to their experiences “being on the other side of an illegal question” and losing out on an “opportunity because of it.”
  • Applicants often don’t know when they are being asked an illegal question: For many topics such as citizenship, disability status, and religious status, the lines between legal and illegal are very fine. If you suspect that the question you are being asked may be illegal and are uncomfortable with answering it, you can ask your interviewer how the question relates to the position you’re interviewing for. As Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy points out, this approach may make them aware that the question was inappropriate.


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