The dumbest interview questions of 2012

December 19, 2012: 11:44 AM ET

If some of the things you've been asked in job interviews lately have struck you as kind of peculiar, cheer up. It's not you, it's them.121219044008-job-interview-gallery-horizontal

FORTUNE -- "Are you a nerd?" "Can you dance?" "If you were a doughnut, what kind would you be?" When talent management consultants Development Dimensions International quizzed more than 2,000 newly hired employees about strange questions they had fielded in job interviews, the researchers got an earful. Some hiring managers' queries are not just odd, they're banned by law. See if you can spot the illegal questions in the following list. (Answers are at the bottom.)

1. "Have you ever been to a disco?"
2. "Do you wish you were a famous person?"
3. "Can I see your wallet?"
4. "How much do you love money?"
5. "Discuss the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall." (for a retail management job)
6. "Describe your sex life."
7. "Do you have a bird?"
8. "Do you whiten your teeth?"
9. "Do you believe there is life in outer space?"
10. "Are you expecting to get married or have children in the next year?"
11. "Are you a Muslim?"
12. "Are you gay?"
13. "Are you a racist?"
14. "Are you straight or bi?"
15. "What leadership skills are required to cook a chicken?"
16. "What would you do if someone spat on you?"
17. "How do you get along with your mother-in-law?"
18. "How do you feel about cats?"
19. "Are you good at picking up women?"
20. "What is your dog's name?"
21. "How much can you drink?"
22. "What would make you want to leave your husband?"
23. "Are you willing to put your job before your family?"
24. "Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease?"
25. "How many Beatles can you name?"
26. "If you would commit a crime, what would it be?"
27. "Would you go out with me?"
28. "Many of our employees are Catholic. Would you have trouble fitting in here?"
29. "Can I have a copy of your birth certificate?"
30. "What would you do if your spouse got a job in another state?"
31. "Are you expecting?"
32. "Is there anyone else you would recommend for this position?"
33. "Do you believe in ghosts?"
34. "Can you give me a small photo of yourself?"
35. "Did you ever have trouble starting your car?"
36. "Can I get a recommendation from your pastor?"
37. "Can you turn around?"
38. "Can you count to 50?"
39. "Will you keep other people sober at the Christmas party?"

And, arguably the dumbest interview question of 2012:

"Are you willing to add some toxicity to your life?" Um, no.

Questions 10, 11, 17, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, and 36 run afoul of federal laws. No. 3 might be out of bounds, depending on what the interviewer is looking for -- the date of birth on your driver's license, for instance. Questions 6, 12, 14, and 19 are off-limits only in places that have laws regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but, even so, they're dumb everywhere.

Talkback: What's the weirdest question you've ever been asked in a job interview? Leave a comment below.

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

Email Anne
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.