Personal Information: Off Limits? How to Handle Illegal Interview Questions

Questions regarding religion, race, sexual preference, age, children, and disability should be off the table when it comes to interviewing in corporate America. Some government job openings may prohibit the hiring of certain persons based on gender, age, and disability, but chances are you will not make it to the interview process if you fall into a restricted category. Beware that there is such a thing as an illegal interview question. However, this does not guarantee that you will be spared. I always say the best defense is knowledge and preparation.

What would you do if you were asked, “What is your service connected disability?” or “Which religion do you practice?” After the initial shock wears of, you might wonder why it matters. Should you answer for amicability’s sake or refuse to answer based on legality? According to, if you find yourself in this scenario, here are three ways to handle this situation:

  1. AnswerIf you choose to answer, be succinct and clear.
  2. Refuse to Answer – Explain that you don’t feel comfortable answering the question. Avoid using the word “illegal” as it might escalate the friction.
  3. Tactfully Sidestep
    • Personal life, you might respond with, “I prefer to keep personal and business matters separate.”
    • Children, you might want to ask, “Are you concerned that I won’t be able to travel or work overtime?”
    • Disability, your response should be, “If you are concerned that I won’t be able to perform the duties of this job, I’m sure I can.”
    • Country of origin, you should say, “If you are going to ask next whether or not I’m authorized to work in the States, I am.”

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Illegal interview questions are illegal for a reason. Answers regarding religion, race, etc. could pin you to an unjust stereotype and lead the interviewer to make a biased decision on something that should have no effect on your ability to do the job. For these same reasons, I advise military job seekers and clients of to drop any and all personal information from their military resumes, including underlying sources such as volunteerism within a church and age descriptive statements such as “retired military veteran with over 25 years of experience”.

Because personal information has a way of sneaking its way into a resume, consider assistance from military resume writers. A little forethought, a planned response to illegal interviewing and a review of your military resume will ensure that your military transition does you the justice that you deserve.