"An employer has the right to reasonably expect that someone is going to be able to ... come to work if it involves those types of holidays," he says.
If asked a question about religion, candidates can simply say, "I prefer to keep my opinions on such things private."
Do you play any sports?
The boss probably isn't asking questions such as "Do you play any sports?" to ferret out information on your health, genes or disabilities, but it could be interpreted that way. While it's legal for employers to ask if you are physically capable of completing job tasks, gathering specific information on your endurance and abilities is a big no-no, says Weinstock.
"Under the (Americans with Disabilities Act), an employer is able to ask the question, 'Are you able to perform the functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation?'" says Weinstock. "The candidate can answer the question that way, 'Looking at all the job functions, I would be able to perform these job functions.'"
You have an accent; where are you from?
An interviewer could be asking an icebreaker question -- "Where are you from?" -- to make the job candidate feel at ease, or he could be digging for something deeper such as a candidate's fluency in a foreign language or work status.
"Really, they're asking 'Can you work legally in the United States, or do we need to get you an H-1B visa?'" says Daniel E. Martin, Ph.D. and associate professor of management at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, Calif.
To counter questions about national origin, Martin suggests redirecting the question to focus more on your ability to fit the company and legal requirements for the job.
"You can say, 'I've been working legally in the United States for a long time. I have all of my materials with me. I'd be happy to share it with your human resources department to get that process going,'" he adds.
Your last name is Park; is that Korean?
The overlap between questions about national origin and those about race and ethnicity is huge.
An employer may be asking about ethnicity in order to increase company diversity, not to discriminate, says Jonathan Segal, an employment attorney and partner with the Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia.
If an ethnicity question does pop up in an interview, Segal recommends addressing it head on by stating "It's not really something we should be discussing," and by redirecting the conversation to a more relevant topic such as your strengths, work ethic or ability to fulfill job duties.
Were you honorably discharged?
For many veterans, skills gained while serving in the U.S. armed forces are the very reasons why they may be qualified for a certain job after leaving the military. If education and experience gained on duty are relevant to the job you're applying for, employers may ask about it. What they can't ask about is how you were discharged, though they may request that information after you're hired, reports the Department of Labor.
Chances are, interview questions about the status of a military discharge probably won't relate to the nature of the job or responsibilities required. If you encounter an off-topic question, Martin recommends using it as an opportunity to move the conversation back to questions you're more comfortable with.
"If somebody asks you a question that's vague or strange or kind of irrelevant to the job, you want to take it as an opportunity to highlight your own expertise," he says.
You're my age, right?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act allows employers to include an age limitation in rare circumstances for jobs "where age has been proven to be a bona fide occupational qualification," such as the Federal Aviation Administration's rule that prohibits commercial pilots from flying after age 65. The law also allows employers to favor older workers over younger ones because of age, but prohibits them from doing the reverse.
If a question about age pops up, Weinstock advises job candidates to frame the answer to reflect your job experience.
"You can say something to the effect of, 'I would like to bring my background and experience to help you and your company where I believe my experience would be extremely helpful in this position,'" he says. "'All of the things you list and you need, I've done before.'"
Are you married?
An interviewer asking about marital status could be making small talk, or could be trying to gain information on your family life or sexual orientation. No federal laws prevent discriminating against a candidate because of gender identity or sexual orientation. However, Segal says approximately 20 states, several cities and many individual counties have their own protections. The District of Columbia does, too.
Even though questions about sexual orientation aren't directly prohibited under federal law, Segal adds that asking them can still land employers in legal hot water.
"If you ask someone 'What's your sexual orientation?' they may perceive it as you're trying to figure out their likelihood of getting pregnant or likelihood of having a potential disease based on stereotypes," Segal says. "It's a good idea for every employee to know what their rights are, to know whether their state or local jurisdiction protects them."
If asked a question about sexual orientation, Segal recommends that candidates ask if they can stick more to topics related to the job. To find out if this is an illegal interview question in your area, contact your state's employment office.