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Dear Kristy: What Questions Should I Not Ask During An Interview?

recruiting employees, hiring employees

Dear Kristy,

Every time I sit down to interview a candidate, I have a fear I’m going to ask questions that aren’t allowed. I want to get to know candidates as best as possible while staying within what’s acceptable and legal. I understand guidelines for each state are different but do you have any basic suggestions for questions to avoid?

Thank you!

Rebecca V.

Hello Rebecca!

This is a great question! We have tweaked our phone interview forms many times over the years to keep up on what’s acceptable, and what’s not. While I’m not an HR professional, I can at least offer a little bit of casual advice here.

Let’s start with the basics:

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (among others) forbid employers to ask interview questions that are related to a candidate’s:

  1. Age (EEOC)
  2. Medical information
  3. Height and weight
  4. Race, ethnicity, or color
  5. Gender or Sex
  6. S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
  7. Citizenship
  8. Religion (EEOC)
  9. Disability (EEOC)
  10. Marital or family status or pregnancy

Those are really the basic things to avoid, but a good general rule of thumb is to stick to questions related to behaviors, skills, and experience needed to perform a job. If you find a discussion straying too far into personal space or that could drum up discrimination issues, do what you can to steer the conversation back to the straight and narrow.

For example, if a candidate starts talking about needing flexible work hours to be available for their young children, you can respond with any company policies regarding flexibility, but otherwise, move on to a new question.

Here are some good questions to ask to help you glean some good information from an interview:

  1. Tell me about a time when your perseverance paid off at work.
  2. Tell us about a time when you believe a customer was delighted, and how that came to be.
  3. How would you define success?
  4. Describe your ideal boss and your ideal workplace.
  5. You are assigned to participate in a team that has several members who are not motivated to work hard and contributes their best efforts. How would you approach this motivation situation?

Want some more interviewing tips? Shoot me an email, I’m happy to help!