Did A Recruiter Just Ask You This? Then She May Have Just Broken The Law

Hirers can ask some pretty invasive questions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to answer all of them.

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Job interviews are supposed to put you on the spot. But they shouldn’t put you out. Your life's your life -- and you have a right to it, literally. There are questions -- ultra-personal questions about you, your health, even your money -- that headhunters, human-resources folks and managers may not ask without potentially running afoul of of the law.

So, the next time you're on the phone with or across the desk from an interviewer, keep your Spidey sense on alert for the following Qs: 

How's your paycheck doin'?

Here's the deal: If “Friends” denizen Joey Tribbiani is just some random guy, the question's no big deal. (So long as he minds his manners, word.) But! If Joey's an HR dude in L.A., and he's pumping you for how much you made at your previous job, then he's breaking the law of California state, which rang in 2018 by prohibiting employers from popping the salary-history question.

Oregon, Massachusetts, New York City and Philadelphia are among the other states and metropolises that have made similar moves in the name of (hopefully) closing the gender pay gap.

Ever been busted, punk?

Look: You're in a conference room, not the back of a squad car. In dozens upon dozens of U.S. states, counties and cities, you're protected from being grilled about your arrest -- and maybe even your conviction -- record. Do your homework, and find out which rules apply to you, your locale and your prospective workplace.

Are you pregnant?

You'll be excused for doing a double take if you get hit with this question. Here’s the deal with it: The question itself not against federal law. But employment discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition is. And if the pregnancy question is only asked of women, then the feds are prepared to call that out as clearly discriminatory.

Some states, including California and Washington, straight-up tell employers they may not ask about a potential hire's fertility status; New York state, for one, says pre-employment questions related to birth control are unlawful.

Got kids? Hubby? Wife?

Will you stop it already, Annoying-Interview-Question-Asking Person? You're (supposed to be) looking for the best person for the job, not making like it's singles' night at TGI Fridays. The EEOC is clear here to employers: Questions about a candidate's marital or child status are potential violations of federal anti-discrimination law.

Had any good flu lately?

Your prospective employers may not inquire about your health or request that you submit to an exam before you get an offer.


Look, if you're interviewing with the Buffalo Bills for a position on the offensive line, then, yes, the weight question's cool, as is the height one. Sometimes size matters, and the EEOC leaves room for that. And though Michigan, per the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, is the only state with a law explicitly prohibiting weight discrimination, the HR woman who quizzes you like Diane Sawyer about your measurements for a programming gig may be violating federal law.

Go to church much?

Once again, we have nuance: Employers at religious institutions are permitted to inquire about the higher-power stuff if you're applying to be, say, their rabbi or pastor. But if you're trying to score a side gig as a pilates teacher at Fanny's Fitness, then feel free to get judgy if the religion question comes up.