Illegal Job Interview Questions to Avoid

Everybody involved has tension when doing a job interview. The person being interviewed wants to leave the best possible impression since you want to add the best new team member possible.

Your success in the competitive environment of today depends critically on the calibre of your workforce. You might not consider what questions you should and shouldn’t ask while searching for the ideal match. You are not allowed to pose questions under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) that could result in actual or perceived discrimination.

The bottom line is that you cannot inquire about a candidate’s:

  • Age \sRace \sEthnicity \sColor
  • Gender Sex Gender identity or sexual orientation
    nation of origin
  • Birthplace \sReligion \sDisability
    relational status
  • kinship situation Pregnancy
  • wage history (in some states)
    This may seem simple, but it can be challenging, particularly if you click with the candidate easily during the interview. It is normal to inquire about someone’s family, friends, education, or other private matters when getting to know them, but doing so during an interview can get you into problems. [Are you looking for background check services? See our top choices.]

Consider what you need to know to make a wise hiring decision when choosing the questions to ask your candidates.

According to Shobi Nunemacher, president of Referral Staffing Solutions, “it’s crucial to ask the same questions to every candidate you are interviewing for a specific role.” “You may have a separate set of questions for different positions, but keep your questions the same when you are comparing two or more candidates for one opportunity.” Want to contract out the hiring process? The hiring procedure might be streamlined by collaborating with a staffing firm.

What You May and May Not Question

There are many actions you may take that seem innocent but could actually get you in legal trouble. Knowing what you can and cannot say is crucial.

Here’s a fantastic and typical example that you might not have considered problematic: “What is your national origin?” Alternative phrase: “Where are you from?” Interviewing a candidate with a distinctive accent or someone who has discussed working abroad may cause you to become overly curious. Additionally, it seems like innocent small conversation. Legally, though, it isn’t.

Nunemacher suggests to resist the impulse to inquire about the origins of the person. The Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII prohibits discrimination on the grounds of national origin. You risk being accused of discrimination if you inquire.

You might inquire about their employment eligibility and ask if they can supply any supporting papers. To verify that new workers are lawfully able to work in the United States, businesses now require all employees to complete an I-9 form. Learn how to distinguish between tax forms W-9 and 1099 in a related article.

Employers are also not permitted to inquire about a candidate’s proficiency in English. You might inquire about the candidate’s fluency in additional languages if it’s pertinent to the role.

Not only that, but you also cannot inquire as to who you live with or how well you know them, or whether you rent or own your residence. However, you might inquire about the duration of a candidate’s residence at the present address.

What is your maiden name? is another question that could appear innocent. Employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of marital status or gender.

Asking “Have you ever worked under another name?” is a better alternative. Ensure that every question you pose is the same for every applicant. The goal of a query like that isn’t to find out if someone is or was married, but rather to see if they have a reputation, published works, or achievements under a different name that you may have heard of in the past.

Nunemacher said, “I recently spoke with a young man who is in the process of changing his name. Regardless of gender, this question will be a catch-all for any name changes for candidates.

“How old are you?” is another question that seems benign. The more subtly phrased “What year did you graduate from high school?” is also prohibited. Alternatively, “When did you start working?” People who are 40 years of age or older are shielded from age discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

The question “Are you over the age of 18?” can be used if you have a minimum age requirement and want to make sure your candidate is qualified, according to Nunemacher. or whatever the age restriction is. For instance, 37 states and Washington, D.C. all need adults to be at least 18 years old if you’re hiring a bartender or waiter who will be serving alcohol. One state has a minimum age restriction of 17, while three other states demand that applicants be older than 21.

Family Preparation
“Do you have children,” or “Do you intend to start a family,” is another query that could get you in hot water as an employer. These inquiries have historically been used to perpetuate a gender pay gap in the workforce, causing some companies to refuse to recruit women outright on the grounds that they might require time off to care for a sick kid or go on maternity leave in the future. Anyhow, it’s against the law.

According to Jackie Burkhardt, a human resources specialist located in Wisconsin, “you cannot question a candidate whether they are planning a family, if they are pregnant, or about their childcare arrangements.” “This is an illegal interview question since it discloses personal information that employers are not permitted to utilise to influence recruiting decisions,” the statement reads.

Instead, she suggests that you focus on posing inquiries that are pertinent to the qualifications and job description.

Another excuse not to inquire about a candidate’s condition is that pregnancy is seen as a qualifying event for disability pay. But other forms of disability are equally protected. You cannot inquire, for example, “Do you have a disability?” or “Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?”

Many jobs could demand lifting or other physical abilities. You cannot inquire about the candidate’s health while determining whether or not they are capable of meeting the standards.

Employers are not permitted to inquire about an applicant’s health or if they have ever been ill or had surgery, according to Burkhardt. You are not permitted to inquire about a person’s height, weight, or other information pertaining to any physical or mental impairments.

It may not occur to everyone, but you cannot inquire about a candidate’s social drinking habits or past drug usage. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 would guarantee a person’s therapy, for instance, if they were a recovering alcoholic or another kind of addict. Or you can be accused of religious prejudice if they abstain from drinking for moral or ethical reasons.

However, she added, “An employer can inquire as to whether the candidate is able to fulfil the fundamental duties of this position with or without reasonable accommodations.

Even if they were mentioned in the job description or advertisement in those circumstances, describe the physical criteria. Is it possible for you to carry out the relevant job requirements for this position in a good and safe manner? That is a legitimate legal query.

wage history
The United States Census Bureau estimates that women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by males. Women who are black or Hispanic make significantly less than that. Although it is theoretically illegal under federal law, it might be challenging to establish. Therefore, several states have taken action to end this prejudice at the level of the job interview.

Some salary-related interview questions are now forbidden in California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Puerto Rico, among other states. The same laws are currently in effect in New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. It’s best to just steer clear of queries like “What is your current salary?” even though it might not yet be applicable in your area or state.

Instead, figure out the pay upfront for any specific role. Inform the candidate about the wage range during the interview and ask if they are still interested in the position given those conditions. The intention is to prevent companies from lowering salaries for positions in order to save a few cents, perpetuating a cycle in which women and people of colour have historically been paid less.

Additional potential issues
Despite not being overtly or universally unlawful, the following issues could get your business into trouble:

Have you ever been put behind bars? (This is only significant if a candidate has been found guilty and only in the case when the candidate’s arrest and/or conviction would actually affect the role they would play.) Being arrested does not necessarily indicate you are guilty of anything, but in some circumstances, this has been found to lead to racial discrimination.
Can you work nights or weekends? This can be interpreted as a question regarding religious observance or as a covert inquiry into familial circumstances.
Are you a bank customer? If you’re certain that it is allowed by the Reasonable Credit Reporting Act of 1970 and the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996, then it is only fair to inquire.
Tips for general job interviews
Naturally, you want to recruit team members with the appropriate abilities, personalities, skills, and knowledge. But when doing a job interview, there are several questions that you’ll want to steer clear of. In fact, a Harris Poll of 2,000 such businesses found that 20% of hiring and human resources managers acknowledged to asking unlawful inquiries. Avoid putting your firm at risk by adhering to these rules:

Determine if the candidate meets the requirements for the position by asking interview questions that are specifically focused on the job’s requirements.
Be consistent in your interviewing methods. Prior to the first interview, prepare a scripted list of questions and follow it.
Don’t ask too many private questions.
Recognize the appropriate and inappropriate interview questions to ask.

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