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Editor Login / SMB Human Resources / What Not to Ask in a Job Interview
Friday, January 13, 2006
65 Update by Brawlin Melgar, Lead Publisher
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What Not to Ask in a Job Interview

by Beth Gaudio

Legal Fdn logoConducting an effective interview could be the most important step you take when it comes to picking the best applicant. In order to make an informed decision about a candidate's qualifications for a job, it is important to gather as much information as possible during an interview. However, you want to make sure that you do not ask inappropriate questions that could be the basis for an employment discrimination complaint. That is why interview preparation is critical. Besides reviewing applicants' resumes in advance of the interviews, you should prepare standard job-related questions that will enable you to pick the best candidate. 

What questions should I not ask?

You should not ask any questions relating to age, family, marital status, pregnancy, gender, national origin and religion. For example, you should not ask a person how old they are, whether or not they are married and/or have kids or what their religious affiliation is. These questions may seem ordinary and reasonable within a social setting. In an interview, however, these questions are irrelevant and may be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. For example, asking a woman whether or not she plans on getting married and having children may cause an applicant to suspect that the employer doesn't want to hire her because she will leave as soon as she gets married or has a child.

But aren't interviews supposed to be subjective?

Inevitably, yes. Interviewers, by human nature, will make subjective assessments of a person and form a perception of an applicant. However, by structuring the interview objectively—that is, preparing a list of standard questions concerning the applicant's knowledge, skills and abilities for the job—an interviewer will avoid intentional as well as unintentional biases in hiring. Although employers will ultimately choose the most qualified candidate who fits within the employment setting, an interview should remain focused on the individual's qualifications and previous work experience.

What sort of questions should I ask?

Keep all questions job-related. Focus on the types of skills and past experience that would enable a candidate to successfully perform the job. It is fair game to inquire into an applicant's previous work experience. For example, an employer may ask why an applicant left his or her previous job and what he or she did or didn't like most about it. As a precautionary measure, employers should make questions as uniform as possible among candidates. This will serve as evidence of nondiscrimination in the event of a lawsuit since all candidates were objectively evaluated according to the same criteria. 

If an applicant believes that I have engaged in discriminatory hiring, what sort of steps will be taken?


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