Interview etiquette: Invasive questions you don’t have to answer

Interview etiquette: Invasive questions you don’t have to answer

In the r/AskReddit subreddit, commenters responded to the following question: What is the most inappropriate question you’ve been asked at a job interview?


"Must maintain eye contact... must maintain eye contact..." (

“Must maintain eye contact… must maintain eye contact…” (

In ideal scenarios, the questions that a potential employer asks an interviewee reflects the character and moral fiber of both the employer and the company they are representing.


Women are sometimes asked if they are pregnant or if they currently have children. Not only is this question disrespectful and irrelevant to determining a candidate’s capability of fulfilling job duties, but it is also sexist and illegal to ask in the first place.


Let’s read some other interview questions that struck redditors as inappropriate:


1. “Would you like to increase your chances at this job by having dinner with me?” (paleperson)

2. “Not me but a friend was asked whether she was a ‘dot’ Indian or ‘feather’ Indian. I am not kidding.” (JOSimpson)

3. “I was told once that I looked about birthing age and asked when I was going to start having children. I just got up, said ‘thank you for your time’ and walked out.” (funsizedsamurai)

4. “They asked me to name my favorite Muppet, and I was totally not prepared for it.” (warncoy)

5. “The guy asked in a somewhat mumbly muffled voice, ‘You aren’t gay or muslim or anything are you?’, to which I replied ‘I’m not sure, how would you define anything?’ (this ended it for us both) Afterwards I discovered, through an employee, that pre-work prayer was mandatory. That business has since dissolved.” (redditpewter)


In an interview, there is a clearly defined power dynamic; you want the job that your interviewer has the power to either give you or pass along to another candidate. You’re powerless; the interview is powerful.


Consequently, many laws have been set in place to protect the rights of interviewees. These laws serve to ensure that employers will not select employees based on illegal discriminatory findings (e.g., sexual orientation, religion, etc.).


Unsurprisingly, these laws are ignored all the time. Employers have their own biases and will ask prying questions to analyze interviewees against these biases, whether or not laws prohibit such probing. It is the responsibility of a brand to place the right people in positions of power in order to eliminate these inappropriate — and potentially damaging — situations from occurring in the first place.


If you feel that you’ve been asked an inappropriate interview question, you have the right to report the question and employer to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Have you ever been asked an inappropriate interview question? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section below, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness

Ryan Lawless

Ryan Lawless is an undergraduate student at Fordham University. He studies English and Spanish as majors, and philosophy as a minor. He won the Margaret Lamb Writing to the Right-Hand Margin award for creative fictional writing, and has been published in Fordham's literary magazine The Ampersand, and its newspaper, The Observer. Ryan grew up in New York, but is also an Irish citizen. He enjoys fiddles, coffee, and music.

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