Saturday, October 21st, 2017

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Interview Questions: Most Common, Illegal, and Questions You Should Never Ask

This article is part of our 52 week journey through Bill’s latest book, “The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money.” Each week, a full excerpt from his book will be presented from beginning to end. To get your copy of his book, visit www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.

Last week we looked at how to begin your interview and ensure you arrive on time. This week we will look at some sample interview questions, including illegal ones. Also, the four types of questions to NEVER ask during your interview.

Smile and firmly shake the interviewer’s hand. If the interviewer is of the opposite sex, wait for them to extend their hand first. If you do extend your hand first, don’t worry about it. The worst move would be to pull your hand back and make yourself look weak. If they begin to fumble around for a copy of your resume, or if they appear to not have a copy handy, offer them one.

There are two types of questions at the interview. There are the questions the interviewer asks you and the questions you will ask the interviewer. We will discuss both types of questions, as well as those that should not be asked.

At the end of the interview, you will usually have the opportunity to ask a few questions. If you don’t want the job, don’t ask questions. Since you did your research, you probably know a few things of interest about the company that were not brought up during the interview. Ask about them. For instance, “I read recently that the company has more than 100 employees. Are all of the employees at this location?” The point is, you did your homework on the company, and you want them to know it.

Below are some possible questions the interviewer may ask:

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Do you have any difficulty working with others?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • How well do you handle stress?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve?
  • What do you think of your previous employer?
  • What did you like most about your last job?
  • What did you like least about your last job?
  • What was the last book you read? What did you learn?
  • What starting salary do you expect?
  • Do you prefer to work independently or with others?
  • Where else have you applied?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • How does your experience and education relate to this job?
  • Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult customer.
  • Give me an example where you tried something new and it worked.
  • Give me an example where you tried something new and it failed.


Of course, some questions are illegal. Do not get too defensive right away, because sometimes the interviewer is not intentionally trying to ask these questions as a means to make a hiring decision, they may simply be trying to make small talk. Sometimes the person doing the interview is just as nervous as you are. If one of the illegal questions is asked, respond professionally. Either turn it back into a question, or respond by merely brushing across the answer and then mention how it will not affect your performance. Illegal questions include the following:

  • Are you married?
  • How old are you?
  • What religion do you practice?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are you planning to have children?

A good response to one of the illegal questions may be, “I pride myself in separating my work life from my family responsibilities.”

Next are some questions you may want to ask of the interviewer:

  • When do you expect to make a decision on this position?
  • Am I replacing someone who moved on from this position or is it a new position?
  • What is the expected career track with this position?

There are also a few questions you should not ask of the interviewer:

  • What type of salary can I expect?
  • What kind of benefits do you offer?
  • Do I get a discount on any of your products?
  • Can I wear blue jeans on Fridays?

When the interviewer is ready to discuss salary and benefits, they will bring it up. If they do not mention it don’t worry about it until they call you back after the interview. If they offer you the job without having discussed any of the benefits, then you should bring them up before accepting their offer. You should also try to get an offer in writing.  The easiest way to approach this topic is to ask your employer if the company will be sending you the offer in the mail. If not, then ask him or her to do so.

Next week we will look at the one thing you MUST do after an interview, and a sample of what it should look like.

Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership, and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.comor www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.


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2 Responses to Interview Questions: Most Common, Illegal, and Questions You Should Never Ask

  1. AustraliaWorks says:

    hi bill, thanks for the article, if you have a moment please also check this list i compiled of the 50 most commonly asked interview questions, why they are asked, any hidden motives and exactly how to answer the questions!

  2. Pingback: The Eight Worst Questions to Ask in an Interview

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