Interview questions - what's legal and what don't you have to answer

A half dozen federal laws protect job applicants from questions that might be used to discriminate against them. Basically, the employer must prove (if challenged) that an interview question is directly related to the duties of the job for which you are applying.

Listed below are items which can be asked during the interview and items which are illegal to ask. Your job resume and employer application form also need not contain this information. You may, however, voluntarily provide any of the information below.

You may be asked and SHOULD answer the questions:

  • Where have you worked before?
  • What duties have you performed on past jobs?
  • What are your short and long-range career goals?
  • Why are you interested in this organization?
  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What education have you completed? (If a certain level is required for the job.)
  • How did you learn about this job?
  • Who are people prepared to write or give references for you?
  • What is your social security number?
  • What is your address and phone number?
  • What special qualifications do you have for this job?
  • May I answer any questions about the job or organization?
  • What are your greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?
  • Why does this job interest you?
  • Why did you select this particular career?
  • Are you willing to travel, to relocate?
  • What job skills do you have? (When specific skills are needed)
  • Do you have a license for the field? (if required) 

You may be asked and NEED NOT answer these questions:

  • Are you married?
  • With whom do you live?
  • If married, are you expecting to have children soon?
  • What does your spouse do?
  • Were your parents born in this country?
  • How old are you? (But, may ask if you are legally old enough to work)
  • Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
  • Where do you bank?
  • Have you ever been arrested? (But, you may be asked to provide information on criminal convictions)
  • How tall are you?
  • How much do you weigh? (But may be asked about height and weight if they are necessary for the performance of a job)
  • How many children do you have?
  • If you have children, what kinds of day care arrangements have you made?
  • What memberships do you hold in social, religious, and community groups?
  • What is your military service status?
  • If a veteran, what kind of discharge did you receive?
  • Are you physically handicapped?