4 Questions Never to Ask in a Job Interview: Job Interview Question Legality

job interview questions

There’s a lot to prepare for when sitting down for a job interview, especially if you’re the one conducting it. Because employers are not permitted to base hiring decisions on protected categories such as age, race, or marital status, there are many types of inquiries which are considered off-limits. Make note of these illegal job interview questions in order to avoid overstepping your boundaries when speaking with a prospective employee.

National Origin and Race

This category is difficult because you must avoid asking any illegal questions while ensuring that an individual can legally be hired. You’re permitted to ask someone if he or she has authorization to work in the country, but you cannot ask where that person was born. Questions regarding one’s citizenship are also not allowed (unless in regards to their legal work status).

Family-Related Topics

You shouldn’t avoid making small talk or asking basic personal questions in the course of polite conversation, but it’s crucial to avoid accidentally posing illegal job interview questions. Make sure never to probe the following subjects prior to making a hiring decision:

  • Whether an applicant is married
  • Information about their spouse or partner
  • The applicant’s maiden name
  • If the individual has children, is pregnant, or is planning a family

All of these questions can be construed as attempts to gain knowledge of one’s marital status, a protected classification. Commonly accepted job interview guidelines suggest that asking about a previous or different last name is acceptable when processing background checks, for example. Otherwise, your best bet is to avoid the subject in general.

Questions Relating to Age

In almost all circumstances, illegal job interview questions include those asked about an applicant’s age, either directly or indirectly. That means you can’t ask what year a person was born in, when they graduated high school, or any other questions which might reveal how old the individual is. Legal job interview questions include verifying that an applicant is of sufficient age to legally be hired and specialized occupations where age might be considered a legitimate job qualification, such as acting or modeling.

Physical and Mental Ability 

Disabilities are not considered legal grounds for disqualifying an applicant, so make sure never to ask about specific physical or mental challenges. A better approach is to clearly describe the responsibilities involved with the position and ask if the applicant can perform them consistently with reasonable accommodations.

Other common illegal job interview questions can include those designed to learn about an individual’s health, ongoing medications, and how many sick days he or she took at their last job. Take time to prepare specific questions and job interview guidelines before any interview in order to reduce the chances of inadvertently compromising yourself or your business.