I’d describe a legal interview question as one that might appear a bit unusual but is actually acceptable. Depending on the specific job you are interviewing for, the industry you work in, and depending on the employment laws that apply in your country or region, the wording of such questions and the ability of the interviewer to ask these sorts of questions might differ.
Questions that you can typically be asked during interviews are certainly legal of course ie. questions related to your previous experience, skills, accomplishments.
But what if you are asked a question that you might not be sure how to answer but is actually quite legal and is one that you need to properly answer if you wish to get the job?
Here are some examples of subjects that I would classify as legal interview question material:
Your ability to legally work in the country
Depending on where you live, there might be some legalities regarding how an interviewer can actually word this question but in the cases I’ve seen, it is certainly a fair and legal interview question. The company wants to know if you are legally able to work in the country and if not, are they going to have to help get your work papers and if so, how much will it cost and how long will it take? If they need to hire someone in the next few weeks and your work visa will require 3 months to process, they may not wait around for you. In my experience, this is an important and legal interview question faced by people who have just moved to a new country to work or are planning on moving to a new country to work.
Questions about your educational achievements and/or relevant certifications or training
Asking about your education and/or certifications isn’t unusual of course but your future employer might actually ask to see proof of your degree or certification. I have seen some employers who will request a photocopy of educational achievements especially if the education is a specific requirement of the job and/or if they’ve been burned by people lying about their level of education in the past. If your educational achievements are from a foreign country, you may also be asked for proof.
Moral of the story?
If you are “a few credits short of a degree” then you don’t have a degree! Don’t state that you have a degree if you haven’t completed one. I have seen so many job candidates state in their resume that they have a degree but word it in such a way that makes me quickly realize they don’t actually have one. When I ask for clarification, they admit they are “a few credits short of a degree.”
If your degree is pending or if you are in the process of completing it, state the expected date of graduation so there is no risk of confusion as to your level of education at the time of applying for the job. Don’t get caught in a lie because when it’s found out, it will most likely ruin your chances at the job.
Your ability and propensity to travel
Some positions require a significant amount of travel and this is a typical reason why people burnout and quit jobs requiring their employers to hire a replacement. In other words, if travel is an important and significant part of the job, expect to field questions regarding your willingness to travel.
Be honest. If they tell that you travel is 75% of the job and you really only want to travel 25% or less, what is the point in saying that this level of travel is acceptable? I’ve seen people accept jobs where the high amount of travel tires them out quickly and causes them to quit.
Your ability to work overtime, shift work and/or weekends
Your work hours are certainly something that you want to get confirmed with an employer before you are hired without necessarily making it look like you are a clock-watcher and are trying to figure out exactly how many hours you’ll be in the office each day! Having said that, I have dealt with companies that do specify work hours that can be considered a little bit out of the ordinary, especially companies that work with divisions in other countries and/or time zones and might require you to work outside of the “typical” 9am-5pm work hours.
Your criminal record (if any).
This is certainly a very important question if you work for (or would like to work for) a company where security clearance is part and parcel of the position. Again, depending on where you live, there might be legalities regarding how the question can be worded but in my experience, this is a perfectly legal interview question.
Local laws might dictate what constitutes a legal interview question and which questions are off limits.
Some of these questions might be necessary depending on your industry and level of position.
If you are interviewing for a job in a different country, you will need to gain the legal ability to work in that country first so this is obviously a concern for a potential employer if gaining this status might take you months or more.
If you were interviewing for a position that involved security clearance, any criminal record would obviously be an important consideration for the hiring company.
Before you attend an interview, try to have a clear idea of any possible legal interview question that you might be asked given the job you are applying for, and given the industry you work in.
Carl Mueller is an Internet entrepreneur and professional recruiter. Carl has helped many job searchers find their dream career and would like to help clear up some of the job search myths that exist while helping job searchers avoid common job search mistakes that cost them jobs.