Interview and Hiring GuideQuestion you cannot ask in the interview - Best Practices

Have an outline in place (and follow it) for each interview in order to put all candidates on an even playing field

Today we all have to worry about the legal ramifications of everything that we do. No longer is it just about recruiting staff. Now all managers and individuals need to understand the ramifications of what questions are asked and which one are not.

Verify Candidate Information

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Anyone conducting an interview should be aware of questions that are illegal to ask prospective employees. Many illegal questions are easy for just about anyone with elementary social graces to avoid, but others might surprise you. In general, you should not ask interviewees about their age, race, national origin, marital or parental status, or disabilities. Some of the key questions to avoid asking are:

  • Where were you born? Alternatively, are you a U.S. Citizen?
    This question could be used to gather information illegally about the candidate's national origin. Although it may seem more relevant, you should also avoid asking,"Are you a U.S. citizen?" You can ask whether a candidate is authorized to work in the United States, but avoid asking about citizenship. You can inform the candidate that they will need to supply proof that they are authorized to work in the United States.
  • What is your native language? Where were your parents born?
    You cannot ask if English is their first language. You can ask whether the person knows a language if it is required for the job. For example, if job responsibilities include supporting Spanish-speaking customers, it is fair to ask whether the candidate speaks Spanish.
  • Are you married? Gay?
    You cannot discriminate based on marital status or sexual preference
  • Do you have children?
    There is a general prohibition about discrimination over parental status. Who will watch the children while you are at work?
  • Do you plan to get pregnant?
    This question to weed out women who might take a maternity leave. It is illegal.
  • How old are you?
    Age discrimination is clearly illegal, and you should avoid this question. Don't try to get the information by asking when the person graduated from college, either.
  • What is your religion? Do you observe Christmas? Where do you go to church
    You cannot discriminate based on religion, so this question is illegal, as would be asking about Yom Kippur, Ramadan, or the Solstice. If you are concerned about the candidate's availability, you could ask whether he or she can work on holidays and weekends, but not about the observance of particular religious holidays.
  • Do you have a disability or chronic illness?
    If the job will require some specific physical tasks, such as installing cables in walls and ceilings, you may ask whether the person could perform those tasks with reasonable accommodation.
  • Are you in the National Guard?
    It is illegal to discriminate against someone because he or she belongs to the National Guard or a reserve unit.
  • Were you honorably discharged?
    This is not an area that an employer can delve into unless there is a "security clearance" requirement. A better way to find out is ask if there are any issues that will need to be addressed in order to get a security clearance. But even that is risky.
  • What clubs or social organizations do you belong to?
    You cannot discriminate because of groups an individual belongs to.
  • Do you smoke or use alcohol?
    You cannot discriminate based on the use of a legal product when the employee is not on the premises and not on the job. You can tell the candidate that a drug test will be required as part of the hiring process.
  • Have you ever been arrested?
    Unless there is a consideration like "bonding" or a security clearance requirement this is out of bounds.

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