I take a bit of a different approach toward illegal or inappropriate questions than a lot of authors or experts. For the past thirty-plus years, I’ve experienced thousands of companies and individuals in those companies who ask illegal questions. Most of the companies in this country have fewer than 100 people, and it may not come as a surprise that many hiring or interviewing authorities just don’t have any idea what is legal and what isn’t.
Some of them do it unknowingly and ignorantly, although that’s really hard to believe. But it is true. Some of them do it because they’re simply going to intentionally discriminate based on what they consider to be their prerogative. Some people ask illegal questions just to show interviewees that they’re going to get away with it. It’s all rather insane and stupid.
Many experts will tell you to flat out tell a prospective employer or hiring authority that a particular question is illegal. They will normally recommend that you tell the hiring authority that you don’t have to answer that question, because it is illegal. I’m not going to tell you to do that. I’m going to tell you to do what you think is best about answering the question.
You may have a chance to be righteous and right and proceed to put some hiring or interviewing authority in his place by letting him know that he’s breaking the law, or you can try to get a job. I assure you that if you make an interviewing or hiring authority uncomfortable by informing her that you know that the question she asked was illegal by saying something like, “That is an illegal question; I don’t have to answer it,” you won’t get hired. Now, you may