Human Resources, Recruiting

Seemingly Innocent Interview Questions that Are Illegal

According to a CareerBuilder survey, one in five employers has unknowingly asked an illegal interview question before. And at least one in three employers is unsure about the legality of certain interview questions. Training is essential.

While you may think you’re simply building rapport with a candidate, you could, in fact, be asking something that is highly illegal. Below are some of the not-so-obvious illegal interview questions you’ll want to refrain from asking during interviews.

Are you married with a family?  

Asking anything about a candidate’s family status is illegal, as it assumes that those individuals with children and a spouse, or who plan to have children or get married, won’t be able to work overtime or may have to take more personal days and time off once they start work. It may also assume that they’ll need more time off for childcare accommodations and that they’ll want benefits packages that include child care and health care for dependents. This question can also be used to reveal the sexual orientation of a candidate, which is illegal.

Will you need to take time off for certain holidays or religious beliefs?

It’s illegal to ask candidates about their religion and their personal beliefs. Candidates can’t be evaluated based on the faith they hold, their belief systems, where they worship, etc. So you can’t ask them about what holidays they celebrate or what religion they observe. Instead, you can show them your work schedule and ask them if they’re available to work those days and times.

What country are you from?

Sometimes if a candidate has an interesting accent, you may want to build rapport by asking this question and to learn more about him or her. But it’s illegal because you can’t ask a candidate his or her country of origin or ancestry. You can’t even ask a candidate if he or she is a United States citizen. You can, however, ask a candidate if he or she is authorized to work in the United States.

What year did you graduate from high school?

This question essentially calls the candidate’s age into question, which is illegal. You aren’t able to ask candidates when they plan to retire or question how young they are. You can’t even ask them what their birthdates are. You can, however, ask them about their experience as it relates to the job.

Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?

If an applicant is a viable candidate for a job, he or she can’t be discriminated against based on a physical or mental disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination if they can perform a job with reasonable accommodation.

Have you ever been arrested?

Employers can’t ask about arrest records and can only ask if candidates have ever been convicted of a crime. Depending on what state you’re in, a conviction record shouldn’t even automatically disqualify a candidate for employment unless it substantially relates to the job in question (i.e., pedophile charges will disqualify a schoolteacher applicant).

Be sure to cover this list of illegal questions during training, and keep it nearby when you’re interviewing candidates.