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Nine Interview Questions to Avoid When Hiring Employees

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2018 | Employment, Rapier & Bowling

A job interview is a nerve-wracking experience for both interviewer and interviewee. When you conduct an interview, you get to know someone and gauge their fit within an organization. When questions and answers are flowing you might lose sight of the legality of questions, especially if someone goes off script. It’s natural to want to understand an interviewee, but there are questions that an interviewer just cannot ask, for legal reasons. Take a look at these nine interview questions to avoid and what to ask instead.

Nine Interview Questions That Break the Law

  1.      Do You Have Kids? Whether a potential hire has children or not, you cannot deny them a job. There are other ways to gauge how committed they are to the job.
  2.      Are You a U.S. Citizen? or What Country Are You From? You cannot disqualify a candidate for a position based on their citizenship. There are ways to determine how familiar an individual is with cultural norms. However, inquiring about their nation of origin violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  3.      Have You Ever Been Arrested? Questioning a person’s criminal record, in general, is not legal. The only time you can ask about something like that is if it directly pertains to the position they are applying for.
  4.      What Disabilities Do You Have?  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are situations when you can inquire about an individual’s abilities pertaining to their job. Those abilities must pertain to the specific job requirements.
  5.      What Is Your Military Discharge Status? This is private information, just like asking about disabilities.
  6.      What is Your Religion? You cannot ask about a person’s religious beliefs or practices, even if you’re focused on something as innocent as availability for weekend work.
  7.      Do You Drink Alcohol? You cannot ask about an individual’s alcohol consumption habits without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Alcoholism is considered a disability and individuals in treatment or recovery do not have to disclose this information.
  8.      How Do You Feel About Supervising Men or Women? This is a question that just seems petty and awkward. Instead, focus on management experience in general.
  9.      How Old Are You? You cannot reject a candidate based on their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not allow you to limit ages in advertisements or discriminate during the hiring process.

Nine Interview Questions to Ask Instead

  1.      What is Your Experience with Kids in X Age Group? This sort of question is legal, but may be appropriate only if the position involves work with youth.
  2.      Are You Authorized to Work in the United States? Ensure that your new hire is legally able to work without asking about their nationality or country of origin.
  3.       Have You Ever Been Convicted of “x”? You can ask if job applicants have been convicted in very specific situations. For example, if you’re hiring someone in accounting, you can ask about fraud.
  4.      Can You Perform the Physical Requirements of this Job? You cannot discriminate against a potential employee with a documented disability. Instead, ask specific questions related to the job.
  5.      How Will Your Military Experience Help You in This Position? Individuals who have served in the military may have unique perspectives on how to accomplish things. This sort of question can help you to understand their perspective.
  6.      What Days Are You Able to Work?/Can You Work With Our Schedule?  Direct questions like this avoid problematic areas like religion/personal beliefs and actually get useful information.
  7.      Have You Ever Been Disciplined for Violating Policies Regarding Alcohol Use? You cannot ask if someone drinks socially or has a problem with alcohol. This phrasing looks at their behavior record and ability to follow rules.
  8.      Tell Me About Your Team Management Experience. Avoid gender or sex in this kind of question and you’ll get a clearer answer from your interviewee.
  9.      What Are Your Long-Term Career Goals? It’s natural to want to hire someone who will stick around, but you cannot use age as a reason to NOT hire someone. Instead, asking about their goals tells you about their long-term plans.



The last thing you want to deal with as an employer is a legal issue like a wrongful termination claim, or an issue that could have been avoided with careful questioning in the interview process. Prepare thoroughly for conducting interviews. Make sure everyone on your team knows and understands what to ask and what not to ask.   PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain