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Illegal Interview Questions

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When your eager to get the job, it may be difficult to refuse to answer questions however you don’t have to answer a question that requires you to give information that could be used to discriminate against you.

As per the Equal Opportunity Act, when answering questions you shouldn't answer those that are irrelvelant to your role.

These includes questions regarding:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction or social origin

For example, the following questions will usually be considered unlawful and discriminatory.

  • Are you in a same-sex relationship?
  • How old are you?
  • What’s your ethnic background?
  • What religion are you?
  • Are you pregnant or planning to start a family?
  • Who do you vote for?
  • Do you have a physical or mental disability?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Are you married?
  • What religious holidays do you practice?
  • Do you have children?
  • What country are you from?
  • Is English your first language?
  • Do you socially drink?
  • When was the last time you used illegal drugs?
  • How long have you been working?

When your answering these questions, they don't shed any information on your ability to actually do your jon, therefore, the answers you provide could be used to discriminate against you.

What To Do If You’re Asked A Question That You Think Is Unlawful or Inappropriate?

Redirecting the conversation may help, if you feel that the interviewer is asking an unnecessary question politely respond that you do not believe that the answer is relevant to your ability to perform the role. For example: ‘I’m interested to know how that relates to the role. Can you tell me a little more?’

Some common examples of how to best approach such questions include:

  • Well I don't know the answer to that question yet, however I'm very interested in the career paths your company can offer me, do you mind telling me about them?
  • It sounds like family and children are an important topic to you, I believe I have handled my childcare arrangements appropriately throughout my career in the industry
  • My age has never been a restricting barrier in any task I have accomplished throughout my career; I don’t see how it would suddenly inhibit my job related skill set
  • That question does not impact my ability to perform the required tasks, would it be of value to you if I described my leadership skills in my previous roles instead?
  • I’m confident that despite my family status, I can manage the dedication and future commitment that this position requires
  • My religious practices are of great importance to me, however I find they rarely interfere with my dedication to any position I undertake.

By sensitively responding to what you think is an unlawful question, it may also encourage the interviewer to explain why they think the question is relevant to the role. It may be that the question is required for a non-discriminatory reason.

Ultimately, questions asked during an interview should relate to the job and how suitable you are for it. It can be uncomfortable to refuse or avoid a question, but knowing what’s off limits and having a simple response at the ready can help you to feel more confident and in control.

References:
Common Interview Questions That Are Actually Illegal, Business Insider AU
Unknowingly Ask Illegal Interview Questions, Here’s How to Dodge Them, Training Australia
Workplace discrimination, Fair Work Ombudsman
Illegal Interview Questions Seek Australia

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