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6 Illegal Interview Questions You Shouldn't Ask

6 Illegal Interview Questions You Shouldn't Ask


August 06, 2010

ILLEGAL: “Are you a U.S. citizen?”
LEGAL: “Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?”

As a company representative, you’re not allowed to ask about national origin, and that includes inquiring about citizenship status. Touchy immigration issues aside, this question makes unnecessary assumptions based on a candidate’s looks and racial stereotypes. On the flip side, you can ask if a candidate is allowed to work in the U.S. By rephrasing the question, you’re avoiding directly asking about citizenship, green cards, and visas, but you’re still getting the essential information you need.

ILLEGAL: “How old are you? When did you graduate from college?”
LEGAL: “Are you over the age of X?”

Whether someone looks to be 18 going on 48 or 60 going on 40, you’re not allowed to discriminate against age (which is what the first question implies). However, when asked differently, the question becomes legal. Just make sure you’re asking about the legal requirements to complete the job. Don’t ask, “Are you over the age of 65?” if the job only requires employees to be 18.

ILLEGAL: "Are you married? How many children do you have? Who do you live with?
LEGAL: “Can you relocate if necessary? Are you willing to travel as a part of this job? Can you work overtime as necessary?”

Only candidates are being interviewed – not their spouses and families. Anything about living situation, roommates, fiancés, spouses, children, etc., is off limits. But you often need to gauge how busy candidates are in their personal lives to see if personal obligations will clash with work responsibilities, and it’s perfectly legal to make a hiring decision based on this factor. On the other hand, if a candidate can commit to the necessary work hours and agree to the job requirements, then personal responsibilities shouldn’t matter. A related tip – remember not to ask for a woman’s maiden name. Instead ask everyone if they’ve ever worked under another name. You may need this when checking references – for women and men.

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