Interviewing: A Roundup of Advice on What They Can and Cannot Ask You

by Naomi House

Interviewing: A Roundup of Advice on What They Can and Cannot Ask You

inalj april 2013 worditoutRecently we have been sharing lots of our own tips and advice on the interviewing process.  One question that is on many interviewee’s minds is, what can they legally ask me?  We have found lots of advice from around the web and through government sources and wanted to share what we have found in a short list.

  • Ask A Manager says “there’s no such thing as an illegal interview question, other than questions asking about disabilities. All the other ones that people think are illegal — questions about kids, marital status, ethnicity, religion, etc. — aren’t illegal. What’s illegal is making a decision based on the answers, and so as a result, smart interviewers don’t ask them”

Often you will hear the term “illegal questions” but with the exception of Title VII it isn’t the question, but rather taking the interviewee’s answer into consideration that makes a question a bad one and potentially viable for an EEOC claim.  Confused?  It is confusing so many employers, not wanting the EEOC to come down on them, just don’t ask these types of questions.  Many articles on this topic add a caveat that the questions aren’t illegal in the strictest sense of the word- but as a job hunter I would find that terminology misleading/confusing.  And you can file a claim with the EEOC based on the outcome and if you were truly discriminated against.  State (an example from Arizona here) and local governments, as well as individual institutions and workplaces may also have guidelines on what they allow interviewees to be asked that exceed the federal guidelines.

So do your research, know your comfort level and what is and is not a reasonable questions and good luck on your interview!


Please also check sources such as the ALSB Journal of Employment and Labor Law, and other sources on labor law such as this CBS MoneyWire report.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.