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Job Interview Questions That Are Illegal
By Susan M. Heathfield. Human Resources Expert
Susan Heathfield is a Human Resources expert. She is a management and organization development consultant who specializes in human resources issues and in management development to create forward thinking workplaces. Susan is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer, and writer.
Susan is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Susan contributes regularly to professional publications including a book chapter for ASTD and a recent article in the American Society for Quality ‘s Journal for Quality and Participation. This Web site is recommended as a resource by many colleges and universities including the ILR School Catherwood Library at Cornell University.
The job interview is a powerful factor in the employee selection process. You can use behavioral-based job interview questions to help you select superior candidates. Ask interview questions that help you identify whether the candidate has the behaviors, skills, and experience needed for the job you are filling.
Ask legal interview questions that illuminate the candidate s strengths and weaknesses to determine job fit .
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Avoid illegal interview questions and interview practices that could make your company the target of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit.
Illegal Job Interview Questions
Illegal interview questions. while not illegal in the strictest sense of the word, have so much potential to make your company liable in a discrimination law suit, that they might as well be illegal. These include any interview questions that are related to a candidate’s:
- Race, ethnicity, or color
- Gender or sex
- Country of national origin or birth place
- Marital or family status or pregnancy
Especially in the course of a comfortable interview during which participants are relaxed, don’t let the interview turn into a chat session. Seemingly innocuous interview questions such as the following are illegal.
Sample Illegal Job Interview Questions
- What arrangements are you able to make for child care while you work?
- How old are your children?
- When did you graduate from high school?
- Are you a U.S. citizen?
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- What does your wife do for a living?
- Where did you live while you were growing up?
- Will you need personal time for particular religious holidays?
- Are you comfortable working for a female boss?
- There is a large disparity between your age and that of the position’s coworkers. Is this a problem for you?
- How long do you plan to work until you retire?
- Have you experienced any serious illnesses in the past year?
During an interview, you must take care to keep your interview questions focused on the behaviors, skills, and experience needed to perform the job. If you find your discussion straying off course or eliciting information you don’t want about potential job discrimination topics. bring the discussion quickly back on topic by asking another job-related interview question.
If a candidate offers information, such as, “I will need a flexible schedule because I have four children in elementary school,” you can answer the question. Do not, however, pursue that topic further. Another candidate informed me recently that his favorite spare time activity is reading the Bible. I asked him to tell me about why he left his most recent job.
Another candidate leaned closer across the table and said, “The reason I am leaving my current job is that I just had a baby two weeks ago and I need a regular schedule for my child care provider.” Another candidate told me he was a native Polish speaker and that he spent his childhood in an area of the city called Pole Town.
Running late at the interview, a female candidate informed the plant manager she had to run because she was late for football practice. His response, Oh, you play football? makes me chuckle every time I think about it. (It was her son s practice.)
Again, do not pursue the discussion and you may not use such information to make your hiring decision. (As an aside, each of these individuals was hired for the position which is why I am comfortable sharing the examples.)
Interested in legal behavioral based interview questions? I also provide guidance about what you are looking for in your candidate s responses. Read more…
The information in this article is from this website and a variety of online resources. The information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. While I have made every effort to provide accurate, legal, and complete information, I am not an attorney and cannot guarantee that it is correct. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.