Please note: This post is not intended to provide legal guidance. Please consult with you attorney for the relevant law in your locality.
We’ve previously created a guide to interview questions that help you really see the strengths of a candidate and how they will perform on the job. We recommend asking open-ended questions that will force the candidate to reveal him- or herself in an interview and, more important, give you important clues as to whether they will be a fit with your organization.
While you want to be armed with a great strategy for job interview question, you also want to take pains to avoid certain topics and questions. These topics touch on areas where the questioner may inadvertently create legal issues for the company.
While we can’t give you a script for a perfect interview, we can equip you with the knowledge to better navigate areas that can be problematic.
Questions About Age
It’s important to avoid job interview questions about age because such questions can raise potential legal issues around age-related discrimination. You can ask an applicant about their job or educational history, but do not press for details that are specific to age.
AVOID the following inappropriate age-related job interview questions:
- How old are you?
- When were you born?
- When did you graduate college?
Questions About Race and National Origin
It’s very important to avoid questions that pertain to an individual’s race or national origin, unless the questions are narrowly focused the candidate’s ability to work legally in the country in which the job is being advertised.
AVOID the following inappropriate race-related job interview questions:
- What race are you?
- Where were you born?
- Are you a US citizen?
Questions About Health & Disability
Do sidestep questions about disability, whether it’s visible or invisible. Do not ask questions about an individual’s health status or whether or not they have chronic medical conditions. It is fine to ask if the candidate can fulfill certain parameters that are specific to the job such such as physical requirements or travel.
AVOID the following inappropriate disability-related job interview questions:
- Do you have any medical conditions that would affect your performance?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- What is your medical history?
Questions About Criminal Record
While sometimes information about an individual’s criminal record is required as a condition of employment, as a general rule, avoid asking questions about this topic in interviews.
AVOID the following inappropriate criminal record-related job interview questions:
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you spent time in jail?
Questions About Martial or Family Status
Questions about marital or family status can quickly venture into problematic territory that will touch on a candidate’s sexual orientation or plans to have a family, so they must be avoided.
AVOID the following inappropriate job interview questions related to family status:
- Do you plan to start a family soon?
- Are you pregnant?
- What does your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend do?
Why We Believe in Open-Ended Questions
Legal issues like those above reinforce our commitment to an interview strategy that focuses on open-ended questions. Our strategy for interviews follows a four-part set of “goals” for the interview that we hope will allow the candidate plenty of room to reveal who they truly are — and what kind of employee they will be.
These “goals” consist of the aim to:
- Not talk first
- Ask open-ended questions
- Focus on the “big picture”
- Dig deep on key project
This framework works incredibly well across industries. Find out how you can apply it to your own hiring challenges below: