What Not to Ask in an Interview

While there are a lot of important questions to ask in an interview, there are also some questions that you shouldn’t ask. You may want to find out as much as you can about your prospective employees, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, has laws to protect employees from discrimination. You may not be intending to violate these laws, but any questions pertaining to age, religion, national origin, marital status, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, children, pregnancy plans, race, or ethnicity can all be considered discriminatory.

Asking Sensitive Questions

If you have to touch on any potentially sensitive topics to determine whether or not a candidate is the right fit for your company, be careful about how you ask questions. In cases like these, you can ask questions that are directly pertaining to the job. You may not be able to ask about a candidate’s disability, but you can ask about their ability to perform certain functions of the job.

Avoiding Personal Questions

It’s best to avoid personal questions altogether. Even innocuous-sounding questions could be interpreted as violating the EEOC’s laws, such as what part of town the candidate lives in. These sorts of questions may seem innocent but, if answered, the candidate would be providing that same information as a more direct EEOC-violating question.

You may just want to know whether or not there would be any issues with the candidate arriving to work on time, but the candidate could think that you want to know if they live in an area that’s populated mostly by minorities. It’s best to stick to the direct work-related question that can’t be misconstrued. Ask the candidate if there’s anything that could delay them getting to work on time.

Keeping the Conversation Professional

Sometimes, candidates bring up personal information themselves. If this happens during an interview, it’s best to steer the conversation back towards work-related questions. Any attempts to ask follow-up questions to information that a candidate has volunteered themselves could look discriminatory. It’s best to steer the conversation back to the job.

If you do find out some personal information about the candidate, even if it’s volunteered by the candidate, the EEOC still restricts you from using that information in your hiring decisions.

Using the Same Questions for All Candidates

Having a list of interview questions prepared ahead of time can help you avoid tricky questions that could appear discriminatory to your candidate. This way, all candidates are asked exactly the same questions. Even if all of your interview questions are strictly professional, keeping every interview the same will prevent inadvertent discrimination.

Candidates may compare what questions were asked in their interviews. If they weren’t asked the same ones, some may wonder why. This may lead them to believe that it was due to discrimination, so it’s best to avoid this altogether by using a standard set of questions for all interviews.

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