Identifying Illegal Questions At Your PA School Interview

The PA program interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. You want to come across as well prepared, confident, personable, and a great match for the program in question. This is why candidates might feel compelled to answer any question asked of them without thinking twice.

You should be aware of the topics and questions that should never be asked during your interview. These “illegal” questions come in many forms and can seem harmless at the time, but many have an underlying question the interviewer is trying to answer for themselves. Its your right to know what topics are allowed to be covered, and which topics you should defer from answering.

Here are just a few categories of illegal questions you should watch out for:

Personal Family Questions
“Are you married?”
“Do you have any children?”
“Are you planning on having children?”

“Are you pregnant?”
“Who will be watching your children while you are in school?”

With questions like these, the interviewer is most likely trying to determine if you will need to take time off from school to take care of your children. While some interviewers may simply be interested in learning your background and current family situation, its best to steer clear of these questions if possible.


Questions About Age
“How old are you?”
“When is your birthday?”
“How old were you when you finished your undergraduate degree?”


These questions seek to determine your level of maturity more than your age. You’re welcome to answer these questions but be aware that you may need to show examples of your maturity in other ways, such as through life experiences or accomplishments.


Personal Questions
“How much do you weigh?”
“How tall are you?”
“What is your sexual orientation?”

If this line of questioning is taken during your interview, its quite possible your interviewer is judgmental. These questions are basically a crude attempt to figure out if you’re physically capable of handling the job duties.


Questions About Disabilities
“I see you have a limp, are you injured?”
“What medications do you take?”
“Are you suffering from any mental health issues?”
“Do you have heart trouble?”
“Have you ever been in drug rehab or have been treated for substance abuse?”

“Do you have an eating disorder?”

Any disabilities you may have would be included in your application demographic information, so there is no reason for your interviewer to ask these questions of you directly. If questions like these make you uncomfortable, avoid answering them if at all possible.


Questions About Nationality
“I notice you have an accent, where are you from?”
“Are you a US citizen?”
“Are you a DREAMER?”
“Were you born in the US?”
“Your last name is Russian, is it not?”

Once again, your nationality status would have been clearly stated on your written application. While some of these questions may be deployed as a way to determine if you’ll need special accommodation for attending the program, its not good interview practice to ask questions about nationality unless it pertains to your experience or an anecdote you’ve offered up to the room (such as a story about working or living in a foreign country).


Questions About Criminal History
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor?”

You may want to check your arrest record yourself before applying to PA school if you have any doubts about your criminal history. You will undergo a background check, so make sure any past offenses are expunged.


Questions About Politial Affiliation

“Are you a conservative or a liberal?”
“Who did you vote for in the last election?”
“Are you a member of a union?”
“What do you think of the president’s policies?”

If asked a political question that doesn’t involve a specific piece of legislation relating to the PA profession or healthcare, do not answer it. You can always use the default response of “My apologies, but I only discuss politics with my family and close friends.”


Questions Regarding Religion and Race
“Are you Caucasian/African American/Hispanic?”
“Do you attend church regularly?”

Interviewers may ask this type of question if you’re applying to a program at a private college with a focus on religion. They may also be asking simply to find out if you will have scheduling conflicts working on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays.


If you steer clear of these topics and keep the focus on your skills and experiences, you’ll be sure to have a smooth interview. You can’t always control who will be interviewing you, but you can be responsible for what information you divulge on a need to know basis. Just make sure that, if you have to defer a question, you do it in a way that is polite, concise, and firm.