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Answering Inappropriate or Illegal Questions

Our Advice

If you end up in hot water with your interviewer, we urge you to cool off before taking action. Make sure that your response is dispassionate and carefully worded. Before reporting the conduct—and risking losing an offer—consider whether the incident is worth it. If you feel a reaction is necessary, consult someone first. If you do decide to go public, do so anonymously. Although the interviewer will know who leaked the information, it may not go any further than that. Meanwhile, hopefully you will make enough noise to get the issue addressed.

Although most employers educate their interviewers about illegal or inappropriate interviewing behavior, you are still likely to encounter it. No one should ever have to anticipate such questions, but if you want to maximize your career opportunities, it is to your benefit to have a game plan. Consider the options presented in this chapter, anticipate discriminatory or inappropriate questions in light of your particular background, and always stay calm. Your goal is to have a maximum number of offers to choose from, rather than to simply put your interviewer in his or her place. You can always turn down an offer from an interviewer who was acting inappropriately, but it is good to have options first.


  • • Prior to the interview, consider what in your background could prompt illegal or inappropriate questions, and decide ahead of time how you will react.
  • • Make sure your reaction is the product of calm, rational thinking about your career goals and the ramifications of your response.
  • • Consider the options discussed in this chapter and determine what option is best for your particular situation.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsAnswering Inappropriate or Illegal Questions - Illegal And Discriminatory Questions, Inappropriate Questions, Our Advice