Interviewing and hiring is a dangerous legal area for managers. Even questions asked with the best intentions can be considered illegal and open your company up for lawsuits. It is critical for managers to understand exactly what they can and cannot ask in an interview. Questions that are illegal in nature don’t usually provide much valuable information anyway and in general are a waste of time from a hiring perspective. Make sure that you give yourself adequate preparation, so that you don’t accidentally ask an illegal question.
Topics that can get you in trouble fall into these areas – family status, race, religion, residence, sex, age, arrests or convictions, citizenship or nationality and disability. Here are some examples of legal and illegal interviewing questions.
1. Do you plan on having children in the next year? Illegal
2. Why did you only stay three months at your last job? Legal
3. Did you work the register at your last job? Legal
4. That’s an interesting accent. Where are you from? Illegal
5. How old are you? Illegal
6. You have to be 16 to work in this state. If hired, can you provide proof that you 16 years of age? Legal
7. Are you available to work nights and weekends? Legal
8. Have you ever been arrested? Illegal
9. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Legal
10. Are you an American citizen? Illegal
11.Are you prevented from being employed due to your immigration or visa status? Legal
12. Are you male or female? Illegal
13. What is your address? Legal
14. Do you rent or own your home and who lives with you? Illegal
15. Are you disabled? Illegal
16. Can you perform the functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation? Legal
17. How many kids do you have? Illegal
18. This job requires that you work evenings and weekends. Is there any reason you can’t work during these times? Legal, but make sure you ask this of all candidates.
19. Are you fluent in other languages? Legal
20. What are your religious holidays? Illegal
It’s easy to accidentally ask an illegal question so right down specifically what you cannot ask and memorize the list. In addition, make sure your interview is pre-planned so that there is little chance that you use an illegal question. Don’t be caught in a lawsuit because of lack of preparation. Even if your intentions weren’t malicious, you could find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit.