Illegal Interview Questions During Election Season

By Adam Robinson,
October 25, 2012

It’s that time year again. Some love it, others hate it. And it seems like no matter which way you turn, the 2012 Presidential Elections has wiggled its way into advertisements, Halloween costumes, and sadly even job interviews. What an OBAMAnation! (Sorry I had too…)

Everyone knows not to talk about the “Big Three” at work (money, politics, and religion) but what about when the only thing the media is talking about 24/7 is politics, for 2 weeks out of every 4 years? Does that make it OK inside a job interview? Maybe it’s just an accident and it slips out, or maybe hiring managers around the country are taking advantage of the political season by casually inquiring about a job candidate’s views during an interview.

If you are having a case of “Romnesia” (I know..) and don’t think there is any way that a hiring manager would be so stupid to ask about political views, we listed the 5 most common sneaky political and totally illegal interview questions asked in an job interview

1. So are you voting next week? 

Ahh.. a sneaky starting question that usually leads to a heated political discussion. What a way to con your candidates into blurting out something they will instantly regret so you can mentally ding* them on the spot. It’s definitely not OK to move them on to the next interviewing phase if their views reflect your own. Just because they think “Barack Rocks”, doesn’t mean they are going to make a great Sales Manager.

*ding or dinging is a word used by Hireologists to describe the action of turning down a candidate or physically pressing the thumbs down button in Hireology to take an unqualified candidate out of the running.

2. Are you involved in any political organizations?

Ooh tricky one! The candidate could think that you want to hear their involvement and participation in extra curricular activities and give you the full run down of their campaign work. But really, you just want to hear what political party they represent so you can choose to hire them or not. To avoid a potential lawsuit or the candidate making a stink on social media, don’t ask anything about political affiliations.

3. How do you feel about Obamacare? 

This is one of the hottest issues of the election. It’s also a much debated and heated topic in health care. If you are hiring for a health care position, the candidate might not find this question sketchy and give you their full honest answer. Don’t be a scummy hiring manager and avoid any election issues in interviews.

4. Will your religious beliefs affect your vote?

Ouch. This is a double “Big Three” fail. There is no possible way this question can turn out to be legal and it’s downright wrong for you to ask. Avoid any questions relating to religion in a job interview, no matter what. 

5. Who do you think won the debate last night?

This question is pretty innocent. The candidate doesn’t have to choose a side and they can be pretty unbiased here. However this kind of small talk question usually leads to a full blown discussion where a candidate can reveal their political side. Not something you want to dive into. Avoid any questions about debates, they get people way to heated.

Politics and interviewing is a mess and lawsuit waiting to happen. Don’t risk your job or your company trying to figure out if your candidate, “Believe’s in America” or wants to “Move Forward.” Instead focus on what traits will make them the right person for the job, even after November 6. As Tammy Gooler Loeb, a career and executive coach in the Boston area said in The Ladder’s blog, Is It OK to Talk Politics in a Job Interview?, “when it comes to your personal politics, it’s best to save that for the voting booth.” We couldn’t agree more.

Although most of these will come up after or before the interview when the candidate and hiring manager are making small talk, it’s best to use an interview guide during all interviews so you can stay on track. Don’t have interview guides? Try ours for free! 

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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