“Do You Plan To Have Children Soon?” The Illegal & Problematic Job Interview Questions Women Still Get

When interviewing for a job, many dread the “Why should we hire you?” question. But that got Resume.io thinking, is it really the worst interview question? That’s what they set out to find out.

They surveyed 2,000 job hunters to find out the worst questions they’ve ever been asked. They found out a lot about the way interviewers think, and also about the sexism and other discrimination job hunters still have to navigate in interviews – including questions that are actually illegal to ask.

Here’s a preview of the top 10 worst interview questions:

Resume.io built a long list of 272 “worst” interview questions from sources including Inc.com, Glassdoor, The Ladders, The Balance Careers and the Society for Human Resource Management. The list was narrowed down to 40 questions by selecting the ones that were frequently mentioned, and the ones deemed illegal or borderline illegal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

They then conducted a survey with a representative sample of 2,000 American adults (18+). Using the 40 worst questions gathered, they asked participants to select the ones they’ve been asked in interviews, and vote for the ‘worst’ question of all.

With this project, Resume.io explores the way interviewers feel about interview questions, and also about the sexism and other discrimination job hunters still have to navigate in interviews.

The key findings of the study revealed some (probably unsurprising) sexist and even racist types of questions and job interview discussions. Here are the key findings:

  • The most difficult question to answer according to our survey is: “How many gas stations are there in the United States?”
  • Women are expected to prove their ‘worth’ in job interviews. They are asked about their strengths & weaknesses, plus why they should be hired and “where do you see yourself in 5 years” more often than men.
  • Interviewers grill men about their legal, political and religious backgrounds. And black men are more likely to be asked about politics than white men.
  • Hiring managers are asking inappropriate (and borderline illegal) questions – including questions about age, children, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political views and more.
  • A quarter of interviewees (25%) have been asked about their relationship, and another quarter have been asked about their experiences with police and law enforcement.

It is also interesting to note how many problematic and even illegal questions are being asked of applicants during job interviews.

30% were asked – directly or indirectly – about their age. Age is illegal to ask about in the US.
●  34% of men, 26% of women
●  35% of people of Millennials were asked this

25% were asked about their relationship status
●  30% of men, 22% of women

25% had a question about experiences with police and law enforcement, which is an illegal question to ask
●  31% of men, 21% of women
●  25% of white Americans, 25% People of Color
●  43% Millennial and 40% of Gen X Black men were most likely to be asked this question, vs 33% of white men

23% had a question about having children or dependents. It’s illegal to ask this question.
●  27% of men, 21% of women
●  Hispanic women were more likely to have this question than white women (25% vs 21%)
●  Hispanic women were also more likely to be asked about childcare 23% vs 17% for white women

23% were asked about their ethnic background or where they were from
●  27% of men, 20% of women
●  22% of White Americans, 23% People of Color
●  33% of Hispanic men were asked where they were from (vs 29% of white men)

12% were asked about their political views
●  Men were more likely to be asked this question (18% vs 8% of women)
●  21% of Black men were asked this, compared to 18% of white men

Despite being illegal, questions about religion, disability, or sexuality are still being asked a fair amount:

● 17% had a question about their religious beliefs
● 36% of Hispanic men were asked this, they were 71% more likely to get this question than white men
●  17% – whether they had a disability
●  10% – about their sexuality
● 19% of Black men were asked about their sexuality, vs 15% of white men

Given the prevalence of the wage gap and gender discrimination in the workplace, it’s no surprise to see women more than men being asked questions about the following:
●  Why they should be hired (45% vs 37% of men)
●  What their strengths are (44% vs 34% of men)
●  Why they want the job (44% vs 37% of men)
●  Where they see themselves in 5 years (45% vs 37% of men)

So what do the findings of this survey show and how can we improve where it is needed? Clearly we have a long way to go in creating work environments that are completely free of discrimination. Fostering open dialog, hiring leaders that set the culture of a company that is inclusive and supportive, and being more aware of our everyday interactions with those in the workplace is a good start.

Those in leadership positions have a big responsibility to set the pace of change and not just uphold the status quo. For more interesting job insights be sure to check out the full report on Resume.io.