To Ask or Not to Ask? – Interview Questions

interview questions

While trying to find the best candidate for your client in a short amount of time, it can be easy to cross that thin line when it comes to interview questions. However, it’s important to stay away from certain topics. You should not ask a candidate about their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other sensitive topics.

This may seem obvious but even the seemingly harmless question “are you a US citizen?” could get you into trouble. Instead, you could ask “are you legally able to work in the United States?” or “are you legally able to work in the United States without restrictions?”

Other topics to avoid

You should stay away from questions about marital or family status, alcohol consumption, dating, and their high school graduation date too. Some other problematic questions, according to SHRM and Vethan and David Weisenfeld, legal editors with Xpert HR, include:

  • Are you planning on starting a family soon?
  • What year did you graduate high school?
  • Your name is very exotic; where are you from?
  • What kind of childcare arrangements do you have for your children?
  • Did you take any sick days or extended medical leave last year?
  • We are hiring because our business is about to become very busy. Do you have any plans that might interfere with your ability to work full time over the next year?
  • What year did you graduate college?

Interview questions that are actually appropriate to ask

Alternatively, some questions that may seem inappropriate are completely acceptable to ask. These include:

  • Will you be able to meet the attendance requirements for this job?
  • Where do you live?
  • Can you perform the job, with or without reasonable accommodation?

Other topics to avoid include asking about salary history and criminal convictions; some states have a law banning employers from asking these questions.

Asking about salary history

States that prohibit asking about salary history include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York (NYC, Albany County, Suffolk County, Westchester County), Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Vermont. These laws are an attempt to end pay discrimination and some even prohibit employers from using this information, even if it’s offered up by the candidate.

Asking about criminal background history

“Ban the Box” legislation prohibits employers from asking about criminal convictions on a job application and during interviews. The idea is to give individuals with a criminal history a fair chance when looking for employment. States that participate in Ban the Box for private employers include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington.

At the end of the day, remember to stay focused on the job that you are interviewing for and if the candidate will meet the criteria.

  • Plan out your interview questions before you jump on a call to make sure that you’re staying within the proper boundaries.
  • Ensure your questions are the same for all candidates and that they relate only to the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the role. Sometimes physical ability questions may be necessary as they pertain to the role.
  • Check state laws before asking about salary and criminal convictions. As always, if you’re unsure about a question please reach out to the HR team for assistance.