What racially discriminatory interview questions are not allowed?

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2020 | Race Discrimination |

Ideally, an employer’s decision to hire you for a job should only take your qualifications into consideration, not your race, color or national origin. For this reason, questions that would provide your prospective employer with information about your race, whether directly or indirectly, are not acceptable during a job interview.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises that interviewers only ask questions that relate directly to the job. Some of the following questions have acceptable variants relating specifically to job requirements. In the form presented, however, they are not acceptable.

Questions relating to race

The EEOC prohibits job discrimination on the basis of either race or color. Therefore, any questions or comments about your skin color or complexion are not appropriate.

However, employers may also attempt to derive information about your ethnicity by asking questions seemingly unrelated to race:

  • “Do you own your own home?”
  • “Have you ever declared bankruptcy?”
  • “Do you own a car?”
  • “What organizations do you belong to?”

Though the employer’s intention in answering these questions may not be to exclude employees because of race, they may reflect prejudice, are irrelevant to the hiring process and are therefore unacceptable.

Questions relating to national origin

Prospective employers cannot ask you where you were born during a job interview. They cannot ask you where your parents are from originally, nor can they ask you for the names of your relatives. If you are a woman, they cannot inquire about your maiden name. However, they can ask whether you have ever worked under a different name, whether you are male or female.

There is some overlap between questions that may discriminate on the basis of race or national origin. If an employer asks you questions such as these during a job interview, you do not have to answer.


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