Is That Even Legal? How to Field “Questionable” Food & Beverage Interview Questions

November 5, 2018 in Career and Job Search Tips, Interview Tips



You expect to be asked informational, behavioral and even “curve ball” questions in a food & beverage interview.

But illegal interview questions?

Yes, you need to be prepared to skillfully address those, too.

Whether they’re inexperienced, improperly trained or just plain unscrupulous, some interviewers will ask questions that violate the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines. What should you do if you find yourself in a situation like this?

Today, our food industry executive recruiters explain how to answer “questionable” food & beverage interview questions tactfully – even when you know the interviewer shouldn’t be asking them.

Examples of illegal food & beverage interview questions:

According to the EEOC’s prohibited policies and practices, employers are prohibited from asking certain interview questions that have a “disproportionately negative effect” on applicants of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy) or other protected class, if the policies or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. Examples include:

  • Are you planning to have children?
  • How would you handle managing a team of all men?
  • When were you born?
  • Do you own or rent?
  • Are you a member of that country club?
  • Have you ever suffered an injury on the job?
  • Where did you learn to speak Spanish?
  • When is your baby due?

Do I have to answer that interview question?

You’re never obligated to answer a job interview question – particularly if you find it offensive or know it’s an illegal one. And frankly, being asked illegal interview questions should raise some serious red flags for you about the interviewer’s intent as well as the organization’s ethics and culture.

But if you think the interviewer might have unintentionally phrased a question poorly (and you really want the job), you may choose to answer them politely: avoiding the substance of the question but addressing their intent. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Try not to get flustered. If you believe the interviewer is just making conversation and didn’t intend to ask an illegal question, there’s no need to panic. Take a beat and gather your thoughts before responding.
  • Tactfully avoid the illegal part of the question. If you’re comfortable, say something like: “Why do you ask? Do you have a legitimate concern I can help address for you?” This will buy you a little more time to formulate your answer, while finding out if the interviewer’s question was an innocent misstep or something more deliberate.
  • Redirect the conversation. If the interviewer does have a legitimate, job-related concern, tailor your answer to address that concern. And if not, gently steer the conversation back to your job-related strengths.

Want more food & beverage job interview advice?

Check out these earlier posts:

Make Sure You’re Prepared for These Typical Food & Beverage Interview Questions

Gain the Upper Hand in Your Next Food & Beverage Job Interview

Then contact a Kinsa recruiter. Experts in food industry executive search, our insights and connections can bring you one step closer to your ideal food manufacturing jobs, food production jobs, beverage industry jobs and more.