Interview Questions That You Should Never Ask

When hiring, you likely have several goals for each interview.  You want to know more about the candidate’s skills and experiences, and you want to gauge whether the candidate’s personality and working style are a good fit for your company’s culture.  While there are many ways to glean this information during an interview, not all the questions you might ask are appropriate – or even legal.

Once your staffing partner has presented one or more candidates, you may need to conduct one or more rounds of interviews, especially if you’re seeking to fill a specific position.  Asking the wrong questions, however, could leave your company vulnerable to legal penalties. Here’s an overview of the most common questions interviewers may want to ask, but should never do so.

 1. “How old are you?”

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination in hiring against people 40 years of age or older, and many states prohibit age discrimination across the board.  If your industry specifically requires candidates to be a minimum or maximum age to work, a question establishing this requirement is appropriate, such as “Are you over 18?”  Otherwise, avoid discussing a candidate’s age.

2. “Congratulations on your wedding – are you and your husband/wife planning to start a family?”

This question contains several pitfalls. First, “family” questions often seek to uncover whether a spouse or child will result in an employee’s need to take frequent time off work – but if the job requires relocation, frequent travel, or a set schedule, it’s better to explain these directly, rather than via the marriage question. In addition, many states prohibit discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation, both of which may come into play in a marriage question.

3. “I see you’re very active in the American Heart Association.  Does heart disease run in your family?”

Questions about disability, health, or workers’ compensation enter illegal waters when they seek to find out if the applicant has or might have a disability.  You may, however, ask if an applicant can perform certain “essential functions” of the job, either with or without reasonable accommodation.

4. “When did you move to the United States?”

Questions about citizenship or birth country may leave your organization open to charges of illegal discrimination on the basis of national origin if the candidate is not given an offer. Federal law does require employers to verify legal status and right to work, however. A better way to phrase this question is to ask if the applicant can work legally in the U.S.

5. “What’s your religion?  We want to make sure we recognize your holidays.”

Even with the best of intentions, asking about religious or club affiliations is generally illegal. You can, however, ask about availability to work. If the job requires an applicant to work on weekends or travel frequently, you may explain that these requirements may conflict with other obligations – but you may also wish to add that the company does make reasonable exceptions for religious beliefs.

At Marquee Staffing, our experienced recruiters can help you find and keep the top talent you’re looking for. Contact us today to learn more!

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