Be Aware of Illegal Interview Questions

Interviewing is part of every manager role, but how do you ensure you’re staying abreast of illegal interview questions?  Asking improper or discriminatory questions not only reflects poorly on the organization but can also lead to legal repercussions. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of fair and legal hiring practices and provide an overview of topics that should not be asked during an interview.

Avoid Asking These Illegal Interview Questions

  1. Protected Characteristics: It’s crucial to avoid questions that directly or indirectly relate to a candidate's protected characteristics under anti-discrimination laws. These characteristics include race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, age, disability and genetic information. Asking about any of these factors can be seen as discriminatory and may result in legal consequences.
  2. Marital or Family Status: Questions about marital status, family planning or a candidate's intentions regarding starting a family are off-limits. Such inquiries can lead to gender-based discrimination and bias against candidates who may have family obligations.
  3. Gender or Sexual Orientation: Inquiries about a candidate's gender identity, sexual orientation or personal life choices that relate to these aspects are inappropriate and discriminatory. The focus during an interview should solely be on assessing the candidate's qualifications and suitability for the role.
  4. Health and Disability: Asking questions about a candidate's health, disabilities, medical history or any related medical examinations is prohibited. It’s illegal to discriminate against individuals based on their health status or disabilities. Instead, employers can ask candidates about their ability to perform specific job functions with or without reasonable accommodations.
  5. Arrests and Convictions: In most cases, questions about arrests or convictions are not allowed unless the position requires a background check or is subject to specific legal requirements. It’s     essential to focus on a candidate's qualifications, skills and experiences relevant to the job rather than their criminal history.
  6. National Origin and Citizenship: Avoid asking questions about a candidate's national origin, place of birth or citizenship status unless required by law or for determining work eligibility. The focus should be on assessing the candidate's ability to perform the job, not their immigration status or background.
  7. Religious Beliefs: Religion and religious practices should never be topics of discussion during an interview. Asking questions related to a candidate's religious beliefs, holidays or affiliations can lead to religious discrimination and bias.
  8. Age: It’s unlawful to ask questions about a candidate's age or date of birth unless age is a bona     fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) necessary for the job. Instead, focus on the candidate's qualifications, skills and experiences relevant to the role.

These are just a few of the questions to avoid during an interview. Regulations vary by state and in some cases position type, so if there’s any doubt, choose a different path of probing.

Focus on Qualifications to Stay Clear of Illegal Interview Questions

Maintaining fair and legal hiring practices is vital for organizations to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. Interviewers must be knowledgeable about illegal interview questions to avoid discrimination, bias and potential legal issues. By focusing on job-related qualifications, skills and experiences, employers can ensure that candidates are evaluated fairly and based on their abilities to perform the job successfully. Remember, fostering an inclusive hiring process leads to stronger teams and better business outcomes.

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August 22, 2023

David Sargeant

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