Interviewing candidates can be a little bit like walking a tightrope; you want to make the individual feel comfortable and determine whether or not they would be an excellent addition to the team, all without asking any questions that could be perceived as inappropriate.

There are a number of things that you are not able to ask in an interview. For example, questions that could be interpreted as being discriminatory. If someone does not get the position, they could point to their answers to these questions as the reason why. If they complain to a higher-up – either in your company or through a more formal procedure – you could end up getting in a lot of trouble, potentially losing your job or incurring a fine for your company.

Of course, you also want to use this interview time to learn a lot about the person – so how do you do it? This article will go over some language that you should avoid at all costs and suggest some other questions that can help you draw the same conclusions about your candidate.

Never ask: How old are you?

You are never allowed about a candidate’s age – beyond whether they are 18 years old or older (but that is pretty much it). There are measurements in place designed to keep employers from discriminating against workers for being either older or younger than forty. Bottom line? Age is off the table.

However, this is pretty simple to get around. You can infer this information from things like when they graduated from school or the number of years that they have been in the workforce – and this is the information that actually matters for the position anyways.

Never ask: Do you have kids? Or are you married?

Asking about someone’s personal life might seem like an excellent way to get to know them, but this is dangerous territory. Pregnancy and gender discrimination are protected under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Of course, learning about your candidate’s availability is incredibly important. While you should avoid any questions about children and relationship status, you can ask questions like whether they would be able to get to the office by a specific time every day, whether they are open to overtime, or if they would be able to relocate for the job.

Never ask: What’s your nationality/religion?

Ethnicity and religious background are also off-limits. Even though these might seem like friendly and harmless questions, these are areas that have been used for workplace discrimination in the past and are now protected.

Instead of asking where someone is from, the only question you are legally allowed to pose is whether someone is authorized to work in the country. Similarly, it is best to avoid this topic altogether; instead, ask if they can work on holidays and weekends (but only if it is relevant to the position at hand).


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