Illegal Interview Questions That Employers Should Be Aware Of

StaffOnDemand Blog

Picture the following scenario : You are interviewing for a position in the company, and you proceeded with the usual fanfare of questions that alludes to the requirements of the job.

Overall, you believe you are suited for the requirements of the position, but the interviewer kept insisting on the requirement for someone who is able to work long hours and travel overseas frequently for business meetings. Suddenly, the interviewer drops the bomb shell and ask, “Are you planning to have children?”

That, is an illegal interview question, even if the intention was to suss out whether the candidate is able to commit to the work requirements of frequent travel and is against the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

According to the said guidelines, employers should recruit and select job candidates on the basis of merit (e.g. skills, experience of ability to perform the job) and regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities or disabilities.

The illegal interview questions constitute as discriminatory hiring practices, since the questions are irrelevant in the assessment of candidates’ abilities and companies with discriminatory hiring practices may be subjected to additional scrutiny by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)  and/or have their work pass privileges for hiring foreign employees curtailed by the ministry.

These questions extend beyond interviews, but also any portion of the recruitment process (e.g. you indicate these questions in your job application form).

So what are some of the illegal interview questions ?

  • Questions about Candidate’s race, color or ethnicity
  • Questions about Candidate’s political affiliation
  • Questions on Candidate’s marriage status
  • Questions on Candidate’s personal habits such as drinking, or smoking
  • Questions on Candidate’s gender
  • Questions on Candidate’s religion
    Questions on Candidate’s plans for parenthood (e.g. Plans to have children, etc)

To prevent misunderstanding and to avoid being perceived as being a discriminatory employer, here is some tips on how to go about your recruitment process:

  • Develop and maintain a fair selection criteria that can be used in assessing all candidates for the position given the job requirements
  • Remove discriminatory interview questions or fields in your application form
  • Practise collaborative hiring with a panel of interviewers, and ensure that interviewers are aware of discriminatory questions that should not be asked during interviews


For more information, do refer to the Tripartite Guidelines for Fair Employment Practices here