Illegal Interview Questions

Illegal interview questions should be avoided in an interview. The job hire screening is an important ethical factor in the employee selection process that must never include illegal interview questions.

The legalities posed in candidate engagement are critical to sustaining an ethical practice of hiring. While rule bound questions would be too formal for an entire job interview, adherence to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines to hire should frame “behavioral-based” job interview questions. Ask questions that are insight about a candidate’s experience and personality, while avoiding illegal interview ones. Interview practices should follow EEOC rules to practice all times; to not do so would cause legal liability for the hiring company. Illegal questions are those that have the potential to place a company at risk for an EEOC discrimination lawsuit, and correspond to the following:

  • Age
  • Race, ethnicity, or color
  • Gender or sex
  • Country of national origin or birth place
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital or family status or pregnancy

Examples of sixteen (16) illegal job interview questions are listed here:

  1. What arrangements are you able to make for child care while you work?
  2. How old are your children?
  3. When did you graduate from high school?
  4. Are you a U.S. citizen?
  5. What does your wife do for a living?
  6. Where did you live while you were growing up?
  7. Will you need personal time for particular religious holidays?
  8. Are you comfortable working for a female boss?
  9. There is a large disparity between your age and that of the position’s co-workers. Is this a problem for you?
  10. How long do you plan to work until you retire?
  11. Have you experienced any serious illnesses in the past year?
  12. Have you been arrested?
  13. Is English your first language?
  14. Do you have any outstanding debt?
  15. Do you socially drink?
  16. When was the last time you used illegal drugs?

During an interview, interview questions focusing on the behaviors, skills, and experience needed to perform the job are on target. Eliciting personal information causing potential job discrimination is a signal that illegal interview questions or practices are underway.

Job interviews enable employers to gather as much information about a candidate as possible. This is done mostly by legal questioning, but sometimes also illegal questioning. The result is that interviewee is put in the position of protecting their own rights: forced to recognize these violations posed as credible questions. It is important to note that "state and federal laws make discrimination based on certain protected categories, such as national origin, citizenship, age, marital status, disabilities, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status, race, gender, or pregnancy status”, is illegal.

Questions directly related to specific occupational qualifications are legitimate. Deviation from targeted professional inquiry has the potential to veer into dangerous, insidious territory that is not at all legitimate hiring practice. Screening of candidates should be vetted early on, with a list of clearly defined questions checked for rule adherence. Hiring practice is a risky area of organizational practice; one that can cause serious and irreparable damages costing the company or institution substantial compensatory damages should the candidate have the wherewithal to sue.

Forcing job candidates into litigation as plaintiffs is also viewed as a violation. The very fact that they are searching for employment places them at far greater risk of victimization than if they had already been working for an employer. If a candidate has been unemployed for a period and does not have the finance to protect their own interest, they may not be able to afford legal retainer. Unfair hiring practice is generally not associated with this little bind in relations, but the issue is obviously known by the legal profession. Nevertheless, this is untold, as free legal advice is available through many court or law school clinics. Employment law is one of the main focuses of pro bono lawyers.

Clearly, the intent behind the question needs to be examined. If a candidate is asked inappropriate questions, a polite decline to answer is typically the only way out. Intent (i.e., mens rea) is a requisite rule element to negligence calculus, the basis for liability in U.S. tort law. This scenario, however, sets up a candidate for failure as well. Walking the candidate into a corner is not a credible test of intelligence, but an intentional wrongdoing meant to destabilize an interviewee’s confidence and the integrity of the relationship to the organization upfront.

The Civil Rights Act of l964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) states it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against an applicant or employee with a disability. Private employers with 15 or more employees, in addition to local and state government employers, must stand by the ADA.

The ADA also forbids employers from asking discriminatory questions before giving a job offer; after an offer is extended, employers are allowed to ask questions about disabilities if the same questions are asked of other applicants offered the same kind of job opportunity, not just those with a clear disability. For example, sex is a protected class federally. This means an employer can’t discriminate against a male or female job applicant. Candid questions about a candidate’s ability to uphold duty are not illegal, but must be posed without discriminatory inference.

Religious discrimination is forbidden, so employers are band from grounding hiring decisions on a person’s religious observances, beliefs, or practices. National origin is a protected class federally. Therefore, employers can’t do hiring decisions on whether an applicant is from a specific country or of a different ethnicity. Because military status is a protected class federally, businesses can’t base employment decisions on a job candidate’s current, past, or future military membership or service.

Some states have laws prohibiting age discrimination against younger employees. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers who are over 40 years old. This means that a potential employer might tread into territory that’s discriminatory to a younger person, but not necessarily illegal.

What to Do When Candidates Offer Answers to Questions You Want to Avoid

If a candidate offers information, such as, “I will need a flexible schedule because I have children in school,” response should not pursue the topic further. Such information may not be used in hiring decision under federal law.

Working from a prepared list of sample interview questions, ensure that little guesswork will be involved in the selection process once the actual appointment is taking place. While not all questions may apply, a list of sample legal job interview questions protects a hiring professional, the company they work for, and of course the candidate. The candidate’s rights are the focus of EEOC hiring guidelines.

Behavioral questions are acceptable, and those should also be framed in the interest of information gathering about a candidate’s experience, skill, and potential viability as an employee of the organization. Ask the candidate to describe past experiences in motivation. They also inquire about how the candidate created an environment in which other employees chose motivation. Supervisory and management experience and skills are necessary for certain jobs. Management experience on a resume just means your candidate had the job title of manager.

Since fitting in culturally is an obligation for any employee to flourish, do not underestimate the power of these questions in defining whether your applicant fits your culture. With good skills, fit, and relevant experience, the new employee will succeed.

Job interview questions regarding motivation enable you to understand what inspires your prospective employee. Reference checking will also reveal the knowledge and skills of your candidates.

Prepare questions that explore the actual job skills and experience you have identified as essential for the position. Prioritize these skills and experiences and explore a few of them with the candidate. Here are six (6) sample “due diligence” hiring question categories that also protect an interviewer from legal liability:

Leadership Questions

If you want to discover employees who understand that leadership is a significant aspect of work performance, ask them questions about leadership. You also pursue employees who are eager to expand and cultivate their leadership abilities. Every organization needs more individuals who are willing to take on roles of leadership. Job interview questions about teamwork grants you assess to your candidate's skill in working with other employees. Team building skills are essential for your most effective employees who work well with others.

Interpersonal Skills Questions

Interpersonal skills are necessary for nearly every job in your company. You may use these sample interview questions regarding interpersonal skills to measure your candidate's skills in interpersonal relationships. Take note of a candidate's interaction with you and fellow employees with whom they come into contact with while visiting your company. You can tell a lot by just noticing the interaction.

Communication Skills Questions

Communication skills are other aspects of a candidates' interaction that you may witness throughout the interview. Similarly, it’s vital to ask candidates behaviorally-based job interview questions regarding the communication skills they’ve shown on the job.

Job interview questions regarding empowerment allow the employer to measure a candidate’s ease with the concept of employee empowerment.

Ranked high as a quality that countless employers pursue in a prospective employee, empowerment fuels decision making, autonomy, and goal achievement in employees.

Interview questions regarding planning allow you to measure the planning skills of the candidate you’re interviewing. You want to measure planning skills in a candidate's attitude to a job.

Motivational Skills Questions

Hiring a manager or supervisor presents a special challenge because of the impact an individual in a leadership role has within your organization. Motivation ranks high as a desirable characteristic or attribute in the employees you hire. Interview question answers about motivation give you the types of responses that you seek from an employee who will exhibit motivation in your workplace.

Planning Skills Questions

In addition, you want to measure whether the interviewee has project planning knowledge, depending on the needs of the job. Goal setting, planning, and measuring progress and success are important components of most jobs. Ask decision-making questions during the interview to define the applicants experience and competency in making decisions at work.

Conflict Resolution Skills Questions

Ask questions to assess conflict resolution skills to figure out your candidate's level of skill in conflict resolution and disagreement Behavioral job interview questions are your best approach during candidate job interviews. The occasional unusual job interview question has the potential to yield thoughtful information about the candidates you interview.

Sample Interview Question Answers for Employers

If you don't assess your candidates' cultural fit, you are missing a critical opportunity to determine whether the prospective employee will work successfully in your company.

The interview questions you asked of candidates offer critical insight into the professionalism of an organization. Legal knowledge provides the framework to professional practice. Assessment of a candidate’s knowledge, experience, and potential cultural fit within your organization must fit inside this legal rubric.

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