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Inappropriate Topics for a Job Interview

Updated on June 13, 2019
I Am Rosa profile image

Author of The Job Hunter's Guide, Rosa's work in labour market and employment helped improve local workforce conditions.

Navigating delicate topics can make conducting job interviews stressful for both potential employees and businesses.

Worried about his national origin or immigration status?  How do you address this issue?
Worried about his national origin or immigration status? How do you address this issue? | Source

The list of things an interviewer should not ask about are based on personal information such as:

  • Age
  • Race, birthplace, national origin;
  • Gender, sexual preference;
  • Religion, spiritual views/practices;
  • Marital or family status;
  • Disabilities;
  • Political affiliations.

These types of questions could be viewed as discriminatory against the job candidate, even if the employer genuinely needs to know.

Legitimate Situations

There are some cases where an employer needs to information not usually required. These include:

  • The position requires extended work hours or unusual shifts. The interviewer may need to know about the candidate’s family situation for the sake of availability.
  • The position is funded by the government to help workers with disabilities gain employment. The employer needs to know about the candidate’s limitations and strengths equally to determine the candidate's eligibility for the program.
  • The company hosts special family services or events. The employer will naturally be curious about a candidate’s family situation in order to embrace them into the company as well.

In all cases, employers need to know if the candidate is legally allowed to work in the country. If there is any question about the candidate’s national origin or birthplace, the best way to address this issue to let the candidate know they will need to provide a Social Insurance Number / Social Security Number and proof of residency status or a valid work visa if hired.


Interviewers should be conscious about how they approach these topics. For example, explain the situation or concern and ask the candidate to address the subject instead of asking pointed questions that would make them uncomfortable or alarmed.

Job candidates should try to answer the intent of the question. If the intent is unclear, ask the interviewer, “How does this relate to the position I am interviewing for?” If you think the answer is reasonable, address the intent honestly. Otherwise, tell the interviewer candidly that you are uncomfortable with the question and/or change the topic.

When dealing with questions that address personal issues, deal with them firmly and respectfully.

© 2011 Rosa Marchisella


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