Don't Ask These Interview Questions - Human Resources Hero

Don’t Ask These Interview Questions

If you’re hiring employees right now, one thing you need to know is that every prospective employee that interviews with your organization will be afforded certain protections und the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Refusing to hire an applicant based on their protected class is unlawful, but how do you know exactly what questions to ask in an interview.

Before you interview

Generally, protections are related to an applicants age, race, gender, religion, national origin, or disability. The key to remember When selecting and interviewing is to focus on the essential functions of the job and only on the functions of the job. This requires that you have thoroughly developed and written job descriptions before you begin the interview and selection process. 

Once you have taken the time to document the essential functions, duties and skills needed for the position, you can start the interview process with confidence. Just be aware that certain areas of questioning are definitely off limits.

Featured Resource:

2020 HR Services Pricing Guide

This guide is full of straightforward independent information to help you get the right service and price for your company.

Questions not to ask in an interview

Here are some questions that you don’t want to ask in an interview.

Questions related to age

An applicant’s age is protected information and is most likely not related to any essential function of their job.  You don’t want to ask any questions related to an applicants age during the interviewing process. You want to avoid questions like: 

  • What year were you born?
  • When did you graduate from high school or from college?
  • When did you get married?
  • Are you current with the latest technology?
  • Do you think you could keep up with this new system?
  • Do you plan to retire soon?
  • When will you be eligible for retirement?

As you can see, some of these questions don’t directly mention age, but can be interpreted as an attempt to determine the applicants age indirectly. Stay away from these questions!

There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, questions designed to determine if applicants are eligible for a job which has legal age restriction. In those cases you may ask the applicant if they are at least 18 years old but nothing more. Make sure not to ask these questions in an interview.

Questions related to ethnicity or citizenship

Avoid any questions related to an applicant’s ethnicity or citizenship. Questions related to an applicants name, language, or citizenship status could expose you to significant risk 

You want to avoid the following:

  • Asking for any documents such as a social security card or other proof of identity except as part of the I-9 verification process which takes place after the employee is offered the job.
  • Questions about language – unless a specific language is required as an essential function of the job.
  • Questions related to an applicant’s physical characteristics. For example hair color, eye color, or height may be related back to the applicant’s ethnicity or national origin which are protected.

Sometimes even innocent sounding questions like “where is your accent from” could put your company at risk, so if it  doesn’t relate specifically to the job and the job description, just don’t ask.

Questions related to pregnancy or family

Avoid any questions related to pregnancy such as:

  • Do you have children?
  • Do you have plans to start a family?
  • How many kids do you have at home?
  • Have you ever been pregnant? 
  • Do you want more kids?
  • Are you pregnant?

Featured Resource:

2020 HR Services Pricing Guide

This guide is full of straightforward independent information to help you get the right service and price for your company.

Questions related to religion

Religion is protected information and cannot be used to make an employment decision. Make sure to avoid question like:

  • Where do you go to church, or where do you worship?
  • Are there any special holidays you need off?
  • Is there any special clothing you need to wear?

You may, however, ask questions related to scheduling, if it’s an essential function of the job. If a position is required to work weekends, the employer may ask if the applicant can adhere to that positions scheduling requirements which includes working shifts on the weekend. If you do this, make sure that the scheduling requirements are clearly documented in the job description.

Questions related to a disability whether you know about it or not

You never want to ask about any perceived or disclosed disability during the interviewing process. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability during the hiring process. 

To avoid violating the ADA, you’ll want to: 

  • Be prepared to explain to applicants what is involved in your organization’s interviewing process and be willing to make appropriate and reasonable accommodations to enable an applicant with a disability to participate in your interviewing. 
  • Focus  solely on the individual’s qualifications and not the disability itself.
  • Redirect any conversations back  to the essential functions of the job if they begin to drift.
  • Treat the individual with the same respect that you would  show any candidate whose skills you are seeking for your organization.
  • Ask job-related questions that relate to the essential functions of the job for which the applicant is applying. Concentrate on the applicants professional knowledge, skills abilities, and work experiences related to the essential functions for which are hiring.
  • Avoid assuming that certain jobs are more suited to persons with disabilities. You also want to avoid any assumptions that a person cannot or does not want a particular job because of their disability. 
  • Avoid assuming that a person with a disability does not have the required education and Training for the position because of their disability .

One important item to note, medical examinations are strictly prohibited under the ADA prior to making a job offer; however, once a job offer has been extended, the job offer may be contingent on the results of a medical examination only if all similarly situated employees are also asked to submit to the same testing. In other words each applicant for this position must be required to take the same test not just the disabled  If after the medical examination the organization decides not to hire an individual because of their disability, employer must demonstrate that the reason for the rejection is job-related and consistent with business necessity as related to the essential functions of the position. In this situation, we would strongly encourage you to consult with an HR professional for more help on what questions to ask in an interview.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

More To Explore

Outsource HR Department | Human Resources Hero
HR Services

Why You Might Outsource Your HR Department Instead of Hire In-House

Why do almost 50% of businesses fail within the first 5 years? One reason is neglecting their HR functions. Companies which ignore their HR are likely to face compliance issues and have lousy hiring practices, high turnover rates, and a toxic work environment. All these issues hurt their bottom line. Research shows that businesses with

How Small Businesses Can Improve Their HR Efficiency | Human Resources Hero
Best Practices

How Small Businesses Can Improve Their HR Efficiency

Knowing how to improve HR efficiency can be highly beneficial for small businesses. Your human resources department might not only handle payroll functions but have myriad other responsibilities, too. Frequently only one or two people handle all HR tasks, leading more strategic HR initiatives to take a back seat. Making a more efficient Human Resources

Scroll to Top