The illegal job interview questions you shouldn’t be asking if you want to keep your reputation intact.
If you’re like me, networking plays a big part in your business. Having recently relocated from South Korea to Germany, one of the first things I did before securing an apartment or evening landing in Germany was setting up various networking opportunities through meetup.com, Facebook groups and general outreach opportunities.
By now you know I can talk about HR all day long so naturally I love learning about other people and where they struggle most.
One of my networking events was filled with people who were having difficulty with their teams. They had high-turnover, weren’t attracting the right people and were confused as to why they kept getting ghosted after what seemed to be a great interview.
When I pressed further, I learned they were asking some interesting and rather illegal interview questions that were sure to make anyone in Human Resources cringe.
I want to walk you through the types of interview questions you’re asking that are illegal so you can avoid potential legal consequences and do things the right way.
Since I’m most familiar with American laws, this post is going to speak directly to the US, but if you are outside of the US, I encourage you to reach out!
As an HR coach and consultant, I want to make sure you have the most accurate and up to date information so you can conduct business successfully and have the guidance and confidence in knowing that you’re asking the right questions.
Laws You Should be Familiar With:
The major law that dictates what you can and cannot ask is determined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC compiled a list of helpful list that outlines the protected areas to avoid discrimination when interviewing candidates. On top of the EEOC, there are many local, state and federal laws that govern the types of questions you can and cannot ask when interviewing.
It is your responsibility to do your due diligence and educate yourself because you will not have a “free pass” if you are caught or reported for not complying.
The Protected Areas to Avoid Discrimination:
The EEOC makes it clear on their website that “it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of that person’s:
– Sex (including gender identity, pregnancy, and sexual orientation)
– National origin
– Age (40 years or older)
– Genetic information
Even if your intent was innocent and there was no intention to discriminate, a person who feels discriminated against has the right to complain, file a charge of discrimination or file a lawsuit or investigation against you. While it may be frustrating especially if you meant no malicious intent, it is illegal to retaliate against them. I highly recommend reading more about it here.
How these Laws Apply to Not Just Interviewing:
Discrimination isn’t limited to just interviewing, it can occur at any point before, during or even while terminating their employment. The list below shows the breakdown of all the various stages in which discrimination can occur. To learn more about these in greater detail you can click this link here.
– Background checks
– Application and hiring
– Job referrals
– Job postings
– Pre-employment inquiries
– Salary and benefits
– Promotions and Job assignments
– Dress code policy
– Reasonable accommodation (religion and disability)
– Discharge and discipline
– Apprenticeship and training
The Illegal Job Interview Questions:
I wanted to break down a few interview questions you CANNOT ask and give you alternative questions you CAN ask.
What not to ask: Are you a US citizen?
What to ask instead: Are you legally eligible to work in the United States? Can you show proof of citizenship/visa/alien registration if we decide to hire you?
What not to ask: Do you have a disability? Have you ever suffered a workplace injury?
What to ask instead: Describe the job in full detail as accurately as possible then ask the candidate if they can perform all of the functions
What not to ask: Are you married? Are you single? Do you have any children?
What to ask instead: Do you have any commitments that would prevent you from working the assigned hours/shifts?
What not to ask: Are you pregnant? Are you trying to have a family?
What to ask instead: How long do you plan on staying with the company you’re hired with? Do you have any leave planned?
Some states prohibit questions about a candidate’s current salary. You can learn more about that here.
Want the full list of illegal interview questions? Sign up for my email list here and be the first to know when I launch the free guide.
By knowing the laws, you protect yourself from potential lawsuits and a tarnished reputation which will most definitely hurt your ability to attract and retain quality clients. My recommendation for you is to create a strategy of questions that are relevant to the position you’re hiring for. When you have a loose strategy, you create more opportunity for small talk which opens the door to illegal interview questions being asked.
By referencing the questions above and downloading my free guide when it’s released you can be confident that the questions you’re asking are relevant and legally sound while attracting the best people for your job.