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Traps and Illegal Questions

Sometimes interviewers will ask you a question that could, if you answer honestly, make it harder for you to get the job. Sometimes this is done intentionally to see how you react, and sometimes it's unintentional. Whether the question is a trap or an illegal one, you need to be prepared.

Interview Traps

What did you like least about your last job? or What did you think about your previous boss?


  • Demonstrate that whatever happened in the past, you are confident you will be happy in this position.
  • Talk about certain tasks that you weren't happy with rather than office politics or any people within the company.

What are your weaknesses?


  • Be honest. Don't make up a faux weakness like "I work too hard."
  • Minimize your weaknesses and emphasize your strengths.
  • Focus on professional traits rather than personal qualities.
  • Choose one weakness and say what your plan is to keep it from affecting this job.

What's your salary history?


  • Defer your answer until you know if the company would like to hire you.
  • Turn the question around and ask what the salary range is for the current opening and where your experience would place you in that range.
  • Know what similar positions pay by looking online or at starting Iowa salaries.

Illegal Questions

Certain questions cannot be legally asked in the United States during a job interview. The answers to these questions could be used to discriminate against you based on your:

  • Age.
  • Race or color.
  • Disability.
  • Gender.
  • National origin.
  • Religion.
  • Creed.

Common illegal questions

  • Do you have children or do you plan on having children?
  • What was your maiden name?
  • When were you born?
  • What is your race?
  • Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?
  • Do you have a drug or alcohol problem?
  • Are you taking any prescription drugs?
  • Would working on weekends conflict with your religion?
  • What country are you a citizen of?


  • Ignore the question but deal with the concern behind the questions. For example, if you are asked what country you're a citizen of, you can reply that you are authorized to work in this country. Or you could use a question about children as a jumping off point to talk about your ability to be flexible in your schedule.
  • Inform the interviewer that the question is illegal and you are uncomfortable answering it.


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