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How do I respond to inappropriate questions in a job interview?
Some questions are illegal for employers to ask in a job interview. If an employer asks you an inappropriate or illegal question, you have to choose how to respond.
It is a difficult issue, especially if you really want or need the job.
In general, employers cannot ask about your:
- Race, place of origin, or ethnic origin
- Sexual orientation
- Marital and family status
- Financial situation
However, sometimes these questions are acceptable. According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, these questions may be valid if it is related to a "reasonable and bona fide qualification because of the nature of the employment." That is, the question might be okay if it is related to the job requirements. For example, an airline can ask about your eyesight if you are applying to be a pilot. This is acceptable because you must have good eyesight to do the job safely.
How to Respond
If an employer asks you an inappropriate or illegal question, you have to choose how to respond.
If you tell the interviewer that you do not feel comfortable answering a particular question, or that you find the question inappropriate, they may not offer you the job. You have to decide how important this job interview is and if you want to work for an organization that asks you these kinds of questions.
You might be able to direct your answer to how it might apply to the job. For example, you can direct your answer to how you will be able to perform the job's duties.
Or, you could answer the question, if you want to.
It is a difficult issue, especially if you really want or need the job. How you respond is your personal choice.
If you are getting help from a community agency to get ready for your interview, talk with them about this. It will help to be prepared and have some creative answers ready, if you need them.
Find more information and strategies for answering inappropriate or illegal questions in a job interview:
For More Information
- Options for Informing Employers About Disability - This tip sheet has information about the advantages and disadvantages of telling an employer about a disability. It is from the Laurier University Career Development Centre.
- Employment: Your Rights and Responsibilities - Information about your employment and discrimination. It is from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
- JVS Career Voice - This blog for job seekers has information about career choices, finding a job, marketing yourself and more. You can submit questions. The blog posts are written by experts in employment.
August 22, 2023