9 job interview questions you really can’t ask for legal reasons


When you’re hiring and want to connect with someone in a job interview, it can be easy to chat like you’re friends. Don’t.

An interview is not a friendly meeting, it’s a time to decide who is best suited to do the job your company is hiring for.

And when you haven’t done your homework before the meeting, the first five or ten minutes of getting to know a job candidate can carry the greatest legal risk, according to Dominique Camacho Morana New York-based labor attorney who represents employers.

“The biggest risk in an interview is a lack of preparation, because when you are unprepared for an interview, questions can be asked that are not meant to be probed inappropriately, but… the question of shortcut may actually be inappropriate,” Moran said.

Here are some of the questions you should be very careful not to ask, because you could find yourself and your business in legal hot water.

1. Are you married? Do you have children? How old are they?

When trying to have a conversation with someone you don’t know, you can show the engagement ring on their finger or ask if they have children.

California-based labor and employment attorney Ryan Stygar said that, unintended or not, questions related to marriage and children can send the message that you are looking for candidates who may become pregnant or who may have child custody issues.

“The vast majority of women are asked these questions more than men. There’s also kind of an implicit bias that’s happening there,” he said.

“If you’re worried about ‘Oh, you might get pregnant later’ and you’re asking these questions, it’s going to be a Title VII offenseit’s gonna be a Employment and Housing Equity Act violation, and you could be sued. Especially if it means you hire a disproportionate number of non-pregnant people or a disproportionate number of men,” Stygar added.

He noted that when these types of lawsuits are brought against employers, plaintiffs must prove that there is a pattern of discriminatory hiring practices. So instead of asking about someone’s personal life to find out if they’re going to stick around for a big project, you can just ask them if they’re capable of carrying out their duties.

2. When did you graduate?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1967 is a US labor law that protects job seekers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age.

Asking when someone graduated makes it too easy for an employer to determine the likely age of job applicants and can lead to future discrimination claims against the employer.

“Whether [the] the answer is in the 80s, 70s or earlier you can almost hear [the hiring manager] doing the math in their head,” said Donna Ballman, a Florida-based employment attorney and author of “Defend Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve workplace crises before you quit, get fired, or sue the bastards.”

3. What school did you go to?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants for employment on the basis of national origin or race.

Moran said asking about education can be completely benign, but can pose a legal risk because where you went to school can give an investigator insight into your birthplace and demographics. racial.

“A better way to ask this question is ‘I see you graduated from Notre Dame. What did you like about Notre-Dame? How was your experience? Moran suggested. This way, you can connect with a candidate while avoiding asking questions that could potentially violate a federal protected category.

4. Do you plan to retire soon? Do you have grandchildren? Can you handle the work around Gen Z?

Moran said the most common employer missteps involve age-related interview questions.

A better way to find out more about a potential employee’s career expectations is to ask something like, “We expect this job to take three years. Are you ready to commit to three years, assuming all goes well? said Moran. “It’s an appropriate way to ask that question, rather than asking ‘Do you plan to retire in the next three years?'”

Stygar asked questions like “Can you handle working with millennials?” that people stereotyped based on their age may suggest that you weed out people from previous generations.

“It’s not catching up with a friend, it’s not a date, it’s not an opportunity to make a new friendship.”

– Labor attorney Ryan Stygar

5. What are your beliefs about abortion/vaccination/religion, etc.? ?

Asking someone what they think of the latest political headline can be a conversation starter, but it can also be legally dangerous. If you start questioning candidates about their political beliefs, it can open the door to illegal discriminatory behavior.

“It sounds so outrageous, but a lot of small businesses will do it, because they think, ‘I just want like-minded people,’ but it’s work,” Stygar said. “You don’t need to screen people based on their beliefs about abortion, their beliefs about gun control.”

With vaccination in particular, however, you can frame questions about the business requirements needed for the job instead of focusing on political beliefs with a simple yes or no question like “Are you able to meet all of our requirements in vaccination matters? said Stygar.

6. Where are you from? Are you an American citizen?

Title VII protects people from discrimination in employment on the basis of national origin. Job applicants are not required by law to disclose their immigration status or where they grew up during a job interview.

Stygar said asking a candidate for citizenship during a job interview is discriminatory and can exclude people from other countries outside the United States.

“A lot of employers say, ‘Well, wait a minute, I have to do an I-9 [Employment Eligibility Verification form]. I know I can’t hire people who aren’t legally allowed to work in the United States, so what should I do? You ask ‘Are you legally allowed to work here?’ You can be legally allowed to work here without being a US citizen. It is not necessary to ask if someone is a US citizen.

Similarly, asking a candidate a question like “You have a nice last name. Where are you from?” may seem innocuous, but it’s a “beautiful walk that leads to a minefield,” Stygar said.

“It starts out being free, but you can’t discriminate against applicants based on their national origin, so if someone has an unusual name for you that you’ve never seen before and you think they’re from ‘another country, you have to keep that to yourself,’ he said. ‘You have nothing to snoop around and say, ‘Hey, where are you from?'”

7. What was your salary at your previous job?

In at least 21 States, including Illinois, Connecticut, California, Delaware, and Massachusetts, and several cities including New York, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, wage history bans are in place in an effort to end wage inequality racial and gender. They make it illegal to ask what a candidate won before.

However, you are generally within your rights to ask a general question like “What are your salary expectations?” »

8. Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?

Labor lawyers said this type of question is more likely to come up in a job application than during the interview.

Fifteen States have mandated the removal of conviction history questions from job applications for private employers, and more than 30 states have adopted a “no box” policy that makes it illegal to ask about history convictions and arrests to job applicants on job applications.

If you ask about someone’s criminal record and it has nothing to do with their ability to do the job, the job applicant could have potential discrimination allegations, Ballman said.

9. Do you need medical accommodation?

One of the most common mistakes is asking job interview questions about disabilities, Ballman said.

“A potential employer cannot ask about medical issues or require a physical exam before making a job offer,” she said. “Prohibited questions would be things like, ‘Do you need accommodations to do this job?’ ‘Do you have any medical conditions that would limit your ability to perform this job?’ ‘How long will it take for your broken arm to heal?’ or “What medications are you currently taking?”

The reason it’s risky to ask this question is that the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in employment based on disability and grants applicants the right to seek reasonable accommodations for those who qualify. When you ask candidates directly if they need accommodations before offering them the job, it can sound like you’re deliberately weeding out candidates who need them.

If you find out about someone’s disability through your interview questions and don’t end up hiring them, they could have a case of disability discrimination, Ballman said.

Instead, frame your interview questions strictly around a candidate’s ability to do the job. For example, questions like: “Are you able to perform all the tasks of this job with or without accommodation?” and “Can you meet our attendance requirements?” are better ways to ask.

Biggest takeout of them all? If in doubt, stick to the script and don’t do it.

Don’t be afraid to be mechanical,” Stygar said. “The purpose of the interview is to determine ‘Will this candidate do well in the tasks you want to hire them for?’ It’s not catching up with a friend, it’s not a date, it’s not an opportunity to make a new friendship. It can happen later in the hiring process, but you have to make sure that your process is mechanical, uniform, and designed so that everyone gets a fair chance.


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