Illegal Interview Questions

What Not to Ask in an Interview!

'What are illegal interview questions?' Sometimes with new managers, there is not sufficient time to train them on what not to ask a candidate in an interview.

Obviously any company doing business in the US knows it is illegal to discriminate based on Race, Gender, Religion, Marital Status, National Origin, Disability, or other attributes that would cause a person to discriminate based on non-job qualification related issues.

The point is you can discriminate when looking at candidates based on the skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications the candidate can bring to the position. Just about everything else should not enter the conversation!

Examples of Illegal Interview Questions

Some questions that sound innocuous are not legal. Some examples are;

  1. Do you have kids?

  2. What church do you go to?

  3. Do you date much?

  4. What political party do you belong to?

  5. When did you graduate from High School?

  6. Have you ever been arrested?

  7. Were you born in this country?

  8. What do you like to do after work?

  9. Is that an Italian name? Are you Italian?


illegal interview questions, how to conduct an interview

In each of these cases, the question has little to do with the qualifications to do a job. While there are probably some exceptions, your best course of action is to stay away from these types of questions at all cost.

Training New Interviewers

Train your new interviewers to stay away from these types of illegal interview questions. Often times, they just don't know what is legal and what is legal. 

One strategy to overcome the possibility of an illegal question being asked in an interview when training new interviewers is to give each interviewer a handful of questions or topics they are to cover.  By limiting the scope of questions, to specific parts of the job interview, say to make them ask questions specific to the job at hand vs. talk about past experience, you limit the possibility of improper questions.   

This is an excellent way of limiting the damage an inexperienced interviewer can do if you don't have time to train them properly.

Finally, you can often rephrase these questions to get the information pertinent to a job. See the Interview Questions page for more information about how to rephrase some of the questions to make them legal but my best advice is to just plain stay away and keep to the skills, knowledge and experience qualifications.

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