5 Interview Questions to Avoid

Interviewing job candidates in the 21st century can be tricky. Even with the best of intentions, it’s possible to veer off into areas that can land you in legal trouble. You’re probably aware of the obvious no-nos such as race, disability, gender and religion, but there are five other interview questions to avoid.


1. Do you have children? / How many children do you have?

You may be compelled to ask some variation of this question in order to determine a candidate’s availability or ability to travel. While it may seem innocuous, it’s definitely off limits. Many states have laws in place that prevent employers from inquiring into marital or familial status.

A better approach is to ask if a candidate could work overtime if needed, if they have any scheduling restrictions or if they could travel on occasion.


2. Have you ever been arrested?

It’s common for employers to want to know if a candidate has a criminal past. A sizable portion of companies perform background checks, which is completely fine. However, you’re not allowed to outright ask if a person has ever been arrested. This can potentially get you in some hot water.

What is allowed is to ask if a candidate has ever been convicted of a crime. The difference in these two questions may seem trivial, but the key issue is that it’s illegal to ask about a person’s arrest record.


3. Where were you born?

Employers are not legally allowed to inquire into a person’s country of origin. This would be classified as nationality discrimination and can quickly open a can of worms. An acceptable question would be, “If you’re hired, can you provide proof of your legal right to work in the United States?”


4. What is your native language?

Again, this could be deemed as nationality discrimination, so this is something that should never be asked outright. If you’re curious if a person speaks more than one language, you could ask something like:

“The position you’re applying for demands an individual who speaks more than one language. What languages are you fluent in?”

This is a better way to gather the information you need without being discriminatory about it.


5. When did you graduate?

You may be inclined to ask this question as a means of making a connection or breaking the ice. But as you probably already know, you’re not allowed to base your hiring decision on a person’s age. This can backfire if someone files a lawsuit because they feel they were turned down on account of their age.

Although you’re not outright asking someone how old they are, inquiring into their graduation date from either high school or college is definitely out of bounds.

Some employers unwittingly get themselves in trouble by asking the wrong questions. With litigation running rampant these days, it’s really important that you do your homework on this matter. These are five interview questions to avoid at all costs.


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