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3 Interview Questions You Should Never Ask

You’ve found three ideal applicants and scheduled interviews. Great news! 

You’ve looked over each resume—and your questions are prepped and ready. Your client is thrilled about their upcoming new hire because they’re swamped and need the position filled ASAP. 

But what if your interview questions are turning away talented candidates—or are even illegal

During the interview process you may want to ask an impromptu follow-up question, but tread carefully and stick to your vetted question list. Why? Because it’s the legal way to interview your candidates. 

Follow the Law 

The Civil Rights Act of l964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.”  So, there are strict guidelines about what you can and cannot ask candidates in an interview. Period. 

Want to be super smart about what questions you pose to an applicant? Start by following these 3 tips on what to not ask in a job interview: 

1. “Are you planning on having children soon?” 

It makes sense why you’d want to know. If a candidate is amazing and the family gets pregnant, there’s the chance they may take maternity or paternity leave down the line—or leave early for childcare. We get it: you want to know if the candidate will be able to do the job duties from here on out. 

The thing is—sex is a federally protected class. So, it’s against the law for an employer to discriminate against a man or woman applying for a job. 

Tip: Keep questions to the candidate’s qualifications and the job duties; by law, their family configuration is none of your business. 

2. “What religious holidays do you observe?” 

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa—religious gatherings are great, but none of it is up for conversation in a job interview. Why? Because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination based on religion. Employers cannot take any aspect of a person's religion into account when hiring. 

If you do ask a candidate about their religion, this may be the reason why, after you extend an offer, you get crickets. 

Oh, no. 

This leads to shock and surprise from your client. Not good. 

Even worse, your questioning leaves you open for the job applicant to pursue legal action based on your questions. Really not good. 

Tip: Of course you want to know about a candidate’s availability, but stick to the essential job duties. Hold back any questions related to how, when, or why a person practices their religion. 

3. “What country are you from?” 

You may be genuinely interested to know where the candidate's accent is from, but this line of inquiry is something you shouldn’t ask in an interview. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of national origin. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees and it “forbids discrimination based upon an individual's birthplace, ancestry, culture, linguistic characteristics (common to a specific group) or accent.”  

Although most people would love to share information about their background in an interview, their country of origin or nationality is off the table. 

Tip: Keep the conversation to how the applicant's past experience can be applied to the current job opening, 

Prepare job interview questions ahead of time

News that your interview questions may actually be illegal could make even the most seasoned recruiter shake in their boots. But not to worry! 

Just stick to your prepped interview questions you know follow the law, and you’ll be golden. 

Ready to attract great candidates, book interviews, and help your clients build a talented workforce? Writing job interview questions that don’t inquire about a person’s race, color, religion, sex, and national origin will keep you on track—and empower your next hire to have a positive interview experience.

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