One employer explains the dilemma of illegal job interview questions and how to respond when it happens to you.

Illegal job interview questions: selling babiesThis is a guest post by Paula R. Stern. If you'd also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

A Digital Eve Israel member asked:

Is it legal in Israel for prospective employers or recruiters to ask, during the interview process:

  • What is your birth date?
  • Where were you born?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have any children?

The only question that might not be illegal of your list would be “where were you born?”

That doesn't change anything.

People ask.

One of our students, a lovely, young, religious woman was asked, “Do you have a problem working with men?” As an older, more seasoned veteran of Israel, I would probably have turned around and said something sarcastic, she simply answered in the negative.

My first job was given to me by an amazing woman who understood the tremendous value of hiring working mothers. Yes, you get less hours per day from them but what glorious hours those are!

True story

I have to admit, as an employer, that questions have crossed my mind and I've avoided asking them on a number of occasions – on one, I couldn't stop myself.

A young mother who had 4 children under the age of four applied for a job as office manager, and I honestly hesitated. She seemed qualified but I really wanted to know if, in our small business, I was going to be spending 3 months a year without a vital position being filled.

I asked.

I knew it was wrong, but I asked… and she told me she was most definitely on a break (from having kids).

I hired her.

The unfortunate reality

It's wrong – it's done all the time. So, the best thing is to anticipate it (the question) and handle it easily.

You have several options – you can say anything like:

  1. “I do/don't plan”
  2. “I'm such and such an age”
  3. “I knew you'd ask that and while I have nothing to hide, I honestly don't see how that information impacts on this job.”

The one answer I really think you should avoid is the one that says, “you know, in America…”

My personal feeling is that whatever answer you give, there's an argument that makes you the best (or the worst) person for the job.

That young woman wasn't hired by that company – they thought her too young and not someone who would make a serious commitment (of course, the funny part was that this was only for a temporary position anyway, so really, who cares) but we placed her at another company a month later. She's been there closing on two years, I believe – and the company feels honored to have her. She's taken over from the documentation manager who left; she's made her place and yes, she had a baby and negotiated to work 2 days a week at home.

About the author

Paula R. SternPaula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her website is: and you can reach her at She maintains a professional blog at and a personal one at

If you like this article, you'll also enjoy Pregnant Job Hunting: When You Should and When You Shouldn’t.

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Rita Ashley

    We could compile a telephone-book sized list of horrific interview questions asked of men and women alike. Legal or otherwise, few people will report the offense and therefore they continue.

    Once the questions are asked, the candidate may evaluate if they even want to work for a company who discriminates on those issues. It’s a morality play in real life. By answering and continuing to interview, the candidate gives approval of the process. That may not be the intention, but it is the result.

    If enough people said, “I am uncomfortable with the implication of that question. If you feel a bias against xxx, I must remove myself from consideration because I don’t want to hitch my career star to a company who doesn’t focus on my credentials but rather my xxxx,” then interviewers would learn to stop asking/using that as a criteria. Leaving is the right thing to do at this point.

    Be certain that if HR is asking the questions, they have been so instructed by management. If it is management asking the bias will be shown even if you do get the job. Will you be given the important projects? Will you be the first one laid off? Will you be seen as promotable and fast tracked? Ultimately, candidates have to ask themselves, is it worth it just to get a job?

  2. Tehillah Hessler

    Thanks Paula for a great article!

    You’ve made some very good points that are especially valuable to new olim. In a resume’ writing class (here in Israel) I was told that I must put my date of birth and teudat zehut number ON my resume’

    You provided some good response options that most people don’t consider because they’re so nervous at interviews.

    I think Rita’s point about being prepared to get up and walk out is excellent advice. Maybe it comes with age and an abundance of experience, but I tend to go into interviews prepared to interview the hiring manager. My goal isn’t to sell my skills as much as it is to determine whether or not working for “this” company will be good for – or detrimental to – my career (and sanity!)

  3. Kate

    I find it shocking that those questions are legal to ask in Israel. I thought there would be more European-style restrictions on those kind of things.

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