Conducting an employment interview can be both stressful and difficult for every party involved. You are looking for the best possible member to join your team, and the person being interviewed is hoping to make the best possible first impression to make the team. In today’s competitive environment, the quality of your team is paramount to your success. In your enthusiasm to find the right person, you may not think about what you should and should not ask. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) prohibits you from asking questions that might lead to discrimination or the appearance of discrimination. In this article, we will uncover popular interview questions to avoid and how to rephrase them.

Bottom line: you cannot ask interview questions that in any way relate to a candidate’s:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Country of origin
  • Birthplace
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Pregnancy
  • Salary history (in some states)

This sounds easy, but can be hard, especially if you develop an easy rapport with the candidate during the interview. It is natural when getting to know someone to ask about family, friends, education or other off-limits topics, but that can get you into trouble during an interview. Take a look at these popular interview questions to avoid so that you can keep yourself out of hot water.

Ask this, Not that

What religion do you practice?

You can ask if the candidate is able to work regular days, hours, shifts. An interviewer can not ask your religious affiliation or holidays that you observe. It is illegal to be asked your place of worship or your beliefs.

Are you a U.S. citizen?

You can ask if the candidate is legally authorized to work in the U.S. or whether he/she will require sponsorship for employment visa status. U.S. employers can get in big trouble for hiring people not legally allowed to work in the country, which has lead to companies taking stronger measures to find out about their applicants even before they’re hired.

Is English your first language or what is your native language?

You can ask the language an applicant can read, speak, write if language ability is job-related. After all, communication is key!

How old are you?

If the job has a minimum age requirement, you can ask if they are at least 18 years old. However, employers cannot use your age to discriminate against you.

Is this your maiden name? 

You can ask if the candidate ever used another name. Any job interview questions related to family status are technically illegal, but employers often ask them to get a read on the future commitment to the job and company.

Are you married and what is your spouse’s name? What does your spouse do and how much does he/she make?

You can ask do you have any relatives that work for us or a competitor or who can we contact in case of emergency.

Do you have or plan to have children? How many kids do you have, what are their names, and do they attend daycare? 

You can ask do you have commitments which would conflict with working regular hours and/or overtime.

Do you have any disabilities? Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations?

You can ask whether the candidate can perform the duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

Did you ever have a drug problem or abuse alcohol?

You can ask are you currently using illegal drugs.

Do you belong to any organizations or clubs? 

You can ask if the candidate belongs to professional organizations associated with the job.

How often are you deployed for your Army Reserve training exercises?

You can ask about relevant skills that a candidate acquired during military service.

Have you ever been arrested?

You can ask if the candidate has ever been convicted of a crime.

When did you graduate?

You can ask what was your major; subjects in school, extracurricular activities.

How long have you been working?

You can ask how long they have been working in a certain industry.

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If you need further help navigating through the rough waters of popular interview questions to avoid, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!