Find your new direction

  • 1300 76 2221
  • Australian owned and operated since 2008
job interview 3410427 1920

7 Unlawful Interview Questions (And How to Respond if Asked)

Interviews are a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times. But if you’re asked one of these unlawful interview questions, it’s important to know how to respond.

Principal Lawyer Trent Hancock of McDonald Murholme says you should never be asked unlawful interview questions in an interview. 

If you do happen to find yourself in this uncomfortable position, you can decline to comment. 

So, which are the illegal interview questions, and what’s the best way to respond? 


Unlawful interview questions 

According to Mr Hancock, you should never be asked the following questions in an interview as they are unlawful. 

  1. Are you in a same-sex relationship?
  2. How old are you?
  3. What’s your ethnic background?
  4. What religion are you?
  5. Are you pregnant or planning to start a family?
  6. Who do you vote for?
  7. Do you have a physical or mental disability?


“If an interviewer steps out of line and asks an unlawful question, an interviewee can politely decline to answer the question on the basis that the answer is not relevant to their ability to perform the role.

“Ideally, this response will cause the interviewer to realise their misstep and withdraw the question,” said Mr Hancock. 

Questions are unlawful because they breach anti-discrimination laws and the Fair Work Act, explained Human Resource Professional, Yvonne Walker.

“Any questions regarding sex, race, disability, carer status or religion are unlawful if not directly relevant to the job”.  

Ms Walker says employers should always frame the question in terms of the job requirements, not the characteristics, such as “This role requires night shift work. Is there anything that would stop you from being able to work night shift” rather than, “Who will look after your children if you are called into work night shift.”


 When an employer fails to ask a question appropriately, you can either decline to answer based on the fact that the interview question is unlawful or answer by addressing the job requirement. 

“Obviously and unfortunately many employers still ask questions that could be unlawful.

“The best way for a candidate to handle it, if they still want the job after being asked it, is to relate their answer to the job requirements.”

If asked: “How will you handle the school pickup?”

Response: “I have arrangements in place to ensure it won’t impact on me doing my job.” 


 Power Dynamics and Interviews

Interviews are daunting, and it’s easy to feel like the interviewer has all the power. After all, they have something you want – a job. But don’t forget that you also have something they want – experience, skills and the energy to make their job easier and add value to their business. 

So, if you’re asked an unlawful question or even one that you deem to be inappropriate or insensitive, don’t be afraid to decline to comment. 


If You Experience Discrimination

If you do feel you were asked an unlawful interview question and have been discriminated against, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.


Australian Online Courses

If you’re looking for an online training provider that offers quality content, reasonable course fees and superior student support, choose Australian Online Courses for your professional development.

Simply visit us online to discover hundreds of flexible, online, professional development courses covering almost every industry sector. Or contact one of our friendly Learning Consultants on 1300 762 221 or via Live Chat.