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Interview Questions to Avoid Asking Candidates

Interview Questions to Avoid Asking Candidates

You have separated the star candidates from that imposing pile of CVs, and now it is time to focus on interviews. To learn more, you will want to ask them about their work habits, past challenges, and whether they go to church every Sunday. Just kidding, definitely do not ask that last question.

Why not? Maybe you need to know whether they would be available on the weekends, but a candidate’s religious practices are none of your business. What if you asked whether they can regularly work on Sundays instead? Phrased this way, you can get the information you need without running afoul of the law and unintentionally asking discriminatory interview questions.

Certain interview questions, and even language in job descriptions, are off-limits because they open the door to allegations of discrimination, even if that was not the intention. As a hiring manager, it is important for you to know the interview questions to avoid asking during an interview. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate this tricky area:

Interview Questions to Avoid Asking at a Glance

Questions you cannot ask in an interview are those that pry into an applicant’s protected status or privacy rights. For example, workers over the age of 40 are protected by age discrimination law, so you cannot ask an applicant’s age, even if their appearance or the graduation date on their CV gives it away. You also cannot make comments or take notes indicating an applicant’s general or estimated age.

If you slip up and ask an inappropriate question, you expose yourself to possible legal action if an applicant has reason to believe your question was the basis for a discriminatory hiring decision. At that point or, even better, before you get to that point, it is vital to reach out to your legal counsel for guidance.

Applicants sometimes volunteer certain information (whether they are married or have children, for example) that you cannot directly request. If you did not ask for those disclosures, then do not worry. Still, though, you want to avoid even the appearance of such information being used as part of your hiring decision.

Examples of Interview Questions to Avoid Asking

Some jurisdictions provide additional prohibitions on interview questions. However, the following interview questions would most likely be illegal in any jurisdiction (in some cases, whether an interview question is illegal or not can depend on the size of the employer and other factors):

Do You Have a Disability?

There are laws providing protections for disabled employees and job applicants. If an applicant has an obvious disability (i.e., they are in a wheelchair) or has disclosed a disability to you, you may enquire about accommodations they may need in order to do the job.

What’s Your Age?

Depending on their age, workers may be protected against age discrimination, so asking for their age is like asking for a legal action. You may, however, ask whether a job candidate is 18 or older, since their status as a legal adult may be an important legal factor in the job.

Do You Have Kids?

Whether the applicant has kids or not is irrelevant to their candidacy and could be used to discriminate against them.

Can You Tell Us About Your Nearest Relative or Next of Kin?

While employers may ask for this information once an applicant is hired (for emergency contact purposes, for example), such questions also should be off-limits during the interview.

What is Your Heritage?

Are you a citizen? You may ask whether an applicant is legally eligible to work (they may have a temporary authorization), but direct questions about their national origin or immigration status should be avoided.

What is Your Racial Identity?

You will want to avoid any questions that specify a person’s ethnic or racial identity.

Have You Ever Been Arrested?

If you need your new hire to pass a security clearance, then you can inform them about this requirement, but it is best to avoid specifics.

How Were You Discharged From the Military?

You may ask whether an applicant is a veteran or whether they have any job-related experience in the military, but you shouldn’t ask about their discharge status.

Have You Ever Filed for Bankruptcy?

You should not ask about bankruptcy filings, loans, wage attachments, or financial status. You can, however, ask for certain financial information related to benefits of compensation after they are hired.

Are You Married?

While it is irrelevant to ask this during the interview, you may ask about dependants for insurance purposes after they are hired.

There are other questions you cannot ask in an interview that may pertain to specific jobs and situations. For instance, you cannot ask whether an applicant has any speeding tickets unless the job requires a clean driving record (such as a commercial lorry driver).

With a better idea of the red flag areas and potential discriminatory interview questions, you will be able to keep your interview questions within the law.

Now That You Know Which Interview Questions to Avoid Asking, Start Hiring

You want to learn as much as you can about your top candidates before you make that all-important decision to hire. What you do not want to do is expose yourself (and your company) to legal actions by violating candidate privacy rights. Knowing what questions to ask — and not ask — is critical, but the first step is finding the right people and we can help. Start finding the qualified candidates you need with a free job posting today.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the legal advice from a professional regarding any legal questions you may have.