We all know that a job interview is necessary to determine whether an applicant is not only qualified for the position, but also to judge whether they will fit in to the workplace. What some employers don’t know is that there are certain types of questions that are not just improper to ask, but even illegal. Knowing what questions to avoid will keep your business out of trouble.
Stick With Questions that are Job-Related
The safest thing to do is keep your interview questions directly related to the position. If you are trying to determine whether an applicant will be punctual, simply be direct about it. Don’t dance around the topic by asking irrelevant questions about whether they have a car or need to pick up their kids from school. As a general rule you should stay away from personal discussions about lifestyle, background, or personal opinions not related to the job. It is also important not to invade the applicant’s privacy.
Avoid Questions about Protected Characteristics
Most employers know that employment decisions cannot be made based on certain protected characteristics: race, national origin, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and others. So, it makes sense that interview questions should avoid those topics as well. Questions that could lead to discrimination and have nothing to do with the applicant’s ability to do the job are off limits.
Some Off-Limit Questions May Not Be Obvious
There are interview questions that may not, on their face, seem discriminatory or illegal, but they can lead the conversation to illegal territory. Consider these examples:
“Are you married? Will you be starting a family any time soon?”
“You have an exotic name; where are you from originally?”
“Did you have to take sick days or medical leave during your last job?”
“Do you have childcare arrangements in place?”
These types of questions can be used by applicants who are not selected for positions in claiming they were discriminated against based on pregnancy, national origin, disability, etc. So, stay away from these discussions.
Create a List of Interview Questions to Be Used Across the Board
Another way to protect your business from discrimination claims involving the hiring process is to create a uniform list of interview questions that are used for every applicant. They can be tailored for certain positions, but they should still be used uniformly and should relate solely to the knowledge, skills and abilities required to do the job. If the same questions are used for everyone, it is more difficult to argue that the questioning itself was discriminatory.
Structure the Interview Process and Make Fairness Your Company’s Mission
If you carefully plan your interview questions and implement a structured interview process that is consistent for every applicant, you can ensure fair and equal treatment of all applicants. Remember to stay focused on the job requirements and how each applicant performed during prior employment. It is also a good idea to include fair hiring practices to your company’s mission statement.