Know what job interview questions are out of bounds

Have you ever been asked questions related to age, race, national origin, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, military status or religion in an interview setting?

Questions like: Who will take care of your children while you’re at work? How often are you deployed for your Army Reserve training exercises? How old are you? are all examples of questions that are out of bounds for interviewers to ask.

Federal laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and various other federal and state laws and administrative regulations related to discrimination are designed to protect job candidates from illegal and unjust discrimination. These laws and regulations ensure that all candidates are evaluated based on the technical and performance competencies required to be successful in the job for which they are interviewing.

I asked Jason Luring, Area Director Human Resources at Catalent Pharma Solutions in Winchester to share from the HR manager’s perspective on this type of situation. Luring has 17 years of HR experience, primarily in the pharmaceutical industry.

Luring suggests for both the interviewee and the interviewer to remain focused on the job role itself. Candidates should come prepared to discuss why they are uniquely qualified for a job opportunity and use data, metrics and experience to highlight why they are qualified. Stick with topics related to the job, the company, and your qualifications. While it is acceptable to discuss your life outside of work as a means of small talk, it should be kept to a minimum.

Interviewers need to do the same.

Luring advises, “Questions that directly or indirectly allude to race, age, sexual orientation, number of children, religion etc. simply don’t impact whether or not someone can do the job they are being interviewed for.

“My guess in most cases this is done without an intent to discriminate and it is more of a sloppy interviewer, ” Luring said.

Luring shared an example where a candidate is asked if they have children or family obligations. While this phrasing is off limits, the interviewer is likely trying to understand if the candidate could work overtime, weekends or extended hours.

He suggests candidates should do their best to redirect these types of questions. For example, responding, “I can work overtime and look forward to the opportunity to support a company mission on evenings and weekends if necessary. The more notice I can receive the better …”

Redirecting questions can be difficult in the moment. Ask yourself, “What is the interviewer actually trying to understand about my situation?” Remember, you can always ask the interviewer to elaborate on the question as it relates to the job rather than choose to redirect.

For example, an interviewer may ask, “I see on your resume that you are in the military. Do you anticipate deployment in the near future?”

And an interviewee may choose to redirect to commitment of work schedule and military experience by responding, “If you are asking whether I will be able to meet the flexible work schedule for evening and weekend requirements, then I am prepared to do so. I am prepared to work outside of regular office hours if necessary. My military experience has provided me with experience in …”

If you think you were denied a job because you refused to respond to an illegal interview question, check with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can learn more about the laws that protect you from discrimination and file a charge of employment discrimination.

Amanda Schagane serves as a career coach in the Gatton College of Business & Economics at UK. She was recently named a Master Career Specialist by the National Career Development Association and currently serves as president-elect for the Kentucky chapter of the organization. Join her on LinkedIn or email her at