Interviewees may think that all of the pressure is on them during interviews, but that's not always true. As managers and business owners look for a new employee, they feel the pressure of finding the perfect person while making sure they ask questions that reveal character, goals, and qualifications without being too invasive. There is a long list of questions that could be misconstrued, resulting in claims of discrimination and a hefty bill from your lawyer. That's why it's crucial that employers know what they can and can't ask interviewees. Any direct questions about disabilities, race, age, sex, medical conditions, or religion could result in a serious problem for the employer.
Illegal Interview Questions
- Are you a U.S. citizen?
While companies can ask if a candidate is legally able to work in the United States, questions regarding birthplace, heritage, etc. are strictly off-limits.
- Do you have any disabilities?
Asking someone if they have any diagnosed disabilities is very dangerous territory. Instead, you can describe their expected duties, and then you can ask if they would be able to perform the listed tasks. Hopefully, at this point, they would either confirm that they can complete those tasks or voluntarily offer pertinent information about their restrictions.
- What year did you graduate from high school?
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, asking someone what year they graduated high school could be seen as age discrimination as this would give the employer a good idea of the age of the interviewee.
- Are you married or do you have children?
This should never be asked in an interview, particularly to avoid discrimination against mothers or candidates that may need to tend to their family. While you can ask if they have any responsibilities that would interfere with his/her work schedule, you should not ask questions regarding parental or marital status.
- Are you pregnant?
Pregnant women are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and shouldn't be turned down for a job because of pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions. It is fully up to the discretion of the candidate as to if she releases information regarding her pregnancy.
- Have you had any serious health issues recently?
While not exactly the same, this is similar to asking a woman if she is pregnant during the interview process. Again, you can ask if they are able to fulfill the tasks that would be assigned to them, but you can't specifically ask about medical conditions.
- Will you need to take time off for certain religious holidays?
This can quickly become misconstrued as religious discrimination. The applicant should not be asked about their religious affiliation in any way.
- How do you feel about interoffice dating?
This question is awkward, inappropriate, and could be seen as an advance on the interviewee. By all means, stay away from any questions that could come across as inappropriate, especially when the question has no relation to the candidate's skillset.
- Do you use drugs?
Use your words wisely! Asking if a candidate uses drugs could be perceived as the employer asking for a list of prescribed medications, which is an extremely invasive question. However, you can ask if the interviewee uses illegal drugs.
- Are you a member of the National Guard or Reserves?
Employing a member of the National Guard or Reserves could be difficult with the possibility that they will be called out. However, this should not be a question asked in an interview. Learn more about how USERRA protects members of the National Guard or Reserves.
The employer should be as fair and reasonable as possible when asking interview questions. All of these guidelines are put in place to eliminate discrimination during the hiring process.