Negative and Illegal Interview Questions

Negatively Phrased or Pressure Questions

Employers want to learn how you handle stress or manage the least favorite parts of your job. Describe how you have overcome obstacles and learned from these experiences.


"What do you like least about your job?"

"My current job requires that I enter our vendor address, phone, and contact name changes into the vendor database. When talking on the phone with vendors, I used to jot down changes in my planner. At the end of the week, I had two or three hours of straight data entry to do. It was hard to discipline myself to keep it caught up. So, instead, when a vendor calls, I ask them if they would wait for just a moment while I pull up their record. I input changes while we are talking instead of saving them. I no longer dread the data entry because I feel on top of it."

So, you have no experience with XXX system?”

"In my internship, the inventory system was set up using XYZ. I was responsible for entering price and quantity data that was used in calculating net sales each month. The calculations were used for decision-making and effective management of inventory control. My information management skills are strong and with some training, I am confident I can learn this system quickly."

Illegal Questions

Most interviewers are knowledgeable and highly trained in the skill of interviewing. On occasion, however, illegal or inappropriate questions may be asked naively or in an effort to build personal rapport with you. Interviewers should not ask about your origin/ethnicity, race, age, weight, marital status, disability, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, unless it is required to fulfill the job.

Answering Negative and Illegal Questions

  • Answer the question in a “friendly” way providing minimal detail. Then, change the topic quickly by asking a question about the job or interviewer’s duration with company.
  • Provide an answer that addresses what you believe is the employer’s “intent” that relates to your ability to perform the job.
  • Ask a question or acknowledge the employer’s question to clarify the information the employer is seeking.


"How old are you?" or "You look young; has that ever been a problem for you?"

"I prepare for my meetings and follow through on my commitments, which has helped me build good working relationships with my co-workers and supervisors. I think my dependability and maturity helps me to perform as well as people with more experience."

"Where were you born?" or "Where are you from?" or "Do you have U.S. citizenship?"

"Although I am an international student I have eligibility to accept internship employment, especially since it relates to my academic studies. Do you have other international student employees?"

"Are you married?" or "Is your partner willing to relocate?"

"I am excited about the opportunity to begin my career in the Chicago area. Yes, we are available to relocate to Chicago, and I can begin employment on or shortly after June 15th. Does that work?"