5 More Illegal Interview Questions (and 1 stupid!)

By Adam Robinson,
August 28, 2012

As a hiring manager you want to dig as a deep as possible into your candidates history to determine if they are the best fit for the job. However digging so deep you almost reach China could be bad news for you or your business. A while back Hireology’s Product Development Director, Margot Baill, wrote a blog post on 5 illegal interview questions, and it was so popular that I decided to follow it up with 5 more! 

Now you probably know you can’t ask your candidates the amount of money they have in the bank, if they have ever been arrested, or if they have a history of mental illness in the family (seriously, we’ve heard of managers who have asked that!) But a lot of interview questions that you probably consider normal are actually illegal! Most of them are asked during casual conversation at the beginning or end of an interview. Get ready to change your interview guides now because the following are questions you should never ask when interviewing candidates for a job.

1. “Wow, that is an interesting last name. Where is it from?”

 The first one is fairly obvious, however if it slips out unintentionally and the candidate informs you of their national origin, it could be considered illegal. Avoid jeopardizing yourself or your business by asking if the candidate has “legal authorization to work in the specific location,” if you are concerned about illegal immigrants or don’t ask the question at all.

2. Have you ever been injured on the job?

Simply being concerned for the safety of your candidates can get you in a lot of trouble. Inquiring about injuries on the job or worker’s compensation claims violates the privacy of your candidate and can be considered illegal. Instead only go as far as to asking about previous work experience and let the candidate discuss what he or she feels comfortable talking about.

3. What holidays do you celebrate?

It may seem pretty innocent to ask your candidates when trying to determine time-off but this question basically asks “what is your religion?” and is considered illegal. Instead describe the work schedule and ask whether applicant can work that schedule. Remember in order for this to be legal you have to ask EVERY candidate the same question.

4. Do you belong to a club or social organization?

Being curious about your candidate’s social activities is normal however this question could reveal political and religious affiliations that candidates are not required to share. And it has little or nothing to do with the job if you really think about it. Try asking questions about professional groups or networks that they are a part of and let them share what they feel comfortable with. 

5. How far is your commute?

Having employees who are close by is ideal, and although you may be asking this question because you want them to have an easy drive in, you can’t choose candidates based on their location. Give the candidate the hours you would like them in the office and let them tell you if they can make that schedule work or not. 

Bonus Stupid Question: As a women do you think you will be able to manage a team of men?

Holy sexist Batman! There is no reason this questions should ever be asked, ever. It is illegal because it discriminates based on sex but it is also unethical and uncomfortable. TLNT contributor Tim Sackett just wrote an article about “Why Women Don’t Get Promoted or Hired,” and part of the reason women get hired less is because they don’t brag or boast about their professional accomplishments making them seem less directed. Don’t be “one of those” managers and avoid any question that will make your candidate uncomfortable.

Once again, to make sure all of your interview questions are considered legal always ask every single candidate the same questions! We all know interviewing isn’t easy, but don’t make it harder on yourself and stick to questions that you know are ethical, legal, and will give you the best idea of how the candidate will perform the job’s duties.

Think you may have a hiring problem? We have the solutions. 

About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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