Questions You Cannot Ask Potential Employees During An Interview

Dear M & M:

I am going to hire some new employees in January. What are some questions I cannot ask potential employees during the interview?


Dear Robert:

Federal and State labor laws are in place to prohibit employers from asking questions that are not related to the job. All questioning during the interview or on the job application should be job related and should not be designed to find out personal information about a perspective employee. To not hire a potential candidate for the job based on any of the following areas would be discriminatory. Do not ask any questions about race, color, sex, religion, national origin, birthplace, age, disability, marital status or family. To avoid asking questions that could be discriminatory create a template of the questions you will ask.

Ask each candidate the same questions to keep the playing field level among all the candidates interviewed. No one should be given special treatment everyone should have the same opportunity. You will be better informed about each candidate skill sets if everyone answers the same question as it will allow you to make comparisons between each candidates answers if they are answering the same question. Remember employer interview questions should be relevant to the skill sets an employer is looking for in a potential candidate.

The questions should reveal important information to enable an employer to make an informed decision to make the hiring process easier. Ask questions that will bring out the thinking and decision making abilities of the candidates as well as the general knowledge and other characteristics or traits that the individual possesses to enable them to perform the job. Some examples you can ask, “What languages do you read, speak or write fluently?” (This question is fine, as long as this ability is relevant to performance of the job).

You can’t ask, whether parents or spouse are native-born or naturalized. You can ask, whether an applicant’s work records are under another name, for purposes of access to these records: “Have you worked for the before under a different name?” You can ask, whether an applicant can meet specified work schedules or has activities, commitments and responsibilities that may hinder the meeting or work attendance requirements. “This job requires overtime occasionally, would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary?” (This question is fine as long as ALL applicants for the job are asked consistently).

You can’t ask the number and/or age of children, who cares for them, and of applicant’s plans to have more children? When getting into the areas of Personal/Physical Data and Inquiries as to ability to perform actual job requirements. Being a certain height or weight will not be considered to be a job requirement unless the employer can show that no employee with the ineligible height or weight could do the work.

This question may be asked after the interviewer thoroughly described the job and if all applicants are going to be asked in a consistent manner whether they are able to carry out all the necessary job assignments and perform them in a safe way. Be safe. If you are not certain if a question is discriminatory do not ask it until you connect with a professional that knows and understands labor laws. Source: University of Dayton



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