Illegal Interview Questions You Can Never Ask


An interview is where you take the time to feel out whether a candidate would be a good fit for a job and your team. But not every question is fair game. This post will cover some of the questions that are tempting to ask a candidate, but are not legal topics of discussion.   

What Makes A Question Illegal?  

Illegal job interview questions are those that try to solicit information from a job candidate that could be used to discriminate against them. Asking questions about a candidate’s race, religion, or gender could open a company up to a discrimination lawsuit. Asking questions on these topics can result in charges of discrimination, an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and potentially a lawsuit if the issue cannot be resolved. This is an easy enough matter to avoid entirely so long as your company and the interviewers you select to evaluate candidates understand the intent of the laws and also the practicalities of those regulations.   

What Questions Should I Avoid?  

Some problematic questions include those around a candidate’s living situation. While you can ask what their current or previous addresses are and were, you cannot ask whether they own or rent their home, who they live with, and how they are related to those people. For those roles where age is a legal requirement for the role (for example serving alcohol like at a bar or restaurant) in general, it is not legal to ask about someone’s age, or birthdate, or even year of graduation.   

Avoid any questions relating to arrests if it is not directly related to the job or in states where it is illegal to ask. Directly asking about whether someone is available for weekend work could be seen as a proxy question for religious observance. Also, questions about evening work or childcare arrangements can impact females who have childcare responsibilities. Asking if they own a car could be seen as racially discriminatory unless it is a requirement of the job. Each question is an occasion for a candidate to claim discrimination against them based on gender, religion, or race.   

Avoid questions about disabilities or any worker’s compensation claims. Questions like, have you ever suffered a workplace injury, can also be cause for a discrimination lawsuit. Questions about height or weight are also not appropriate. If you can definitively prove a specific height or weight is required for the job, then it is fine to ask, but this is usually unlikely. Instead, provide a description of the job and ask the candidate if they can perform all the functions necessary to succeed in that role.   

What Topics are Off-Limits?   

While the list above is far from comprehensive, the topics to avoid are clear. Any questions about race, color, or national origin are cause for a discrimination lawsuit. Religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation are off limits. Questions around pregnancy status, marital status, or number of children are discriminatory. Questions about age, genetic information, citizenship, or disability are also off-limits. Keep off these topics when interviewing your candidates, and you should be in the clear.   

Need Help Interviewing and Screening Candidates? 

All-Star Staffing excels in screening and interviewing to find the exact talent you need for your open positions.  Let us take hiring off your plate, connect with the recruiting team at All-Star Personnel today.   

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