Illegal Job Interview Questions: Protect Your Business and Learn Them

If your small business is growing and you find that you need to hire more employees, you’ll most likely be conducting a number of job interviews to select the best candidate for your open position. It’s important to know that federal and state law forbid employers from asking certain questions of a job candidate during an interview that are not associated with the position they are being interviewed for. Illegal job interview questions can lead to discrimination claims or even a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit – both of which the small business owner would surely want to avoid.

Most HR managers are well versed in illegal job interview questions, but some small business owners may not be. Learning which interview questions are considered discriminatory and illegal will help you avoid getting into legal trouble as a result of your interview questioning.

Employers should not ask a job candidate any question relating to: race, color, gender, national origin, birthplace, age, marital status, family status, disability, religion, arrest record, conviction record, military discharge status and pregnancy status. Keep in mind that it is not necessarily the actual questions that are illegal; it’s not hiring a candidate based upon answers to any of these areas that is considered discriminatory and therefore illegal.

For example, don’t ask, “what are your child care arrangements?” However, it’s legal to ask, “Do you anticipate having to take any absences from work on a regular basis?” It’s also illegal to ask if a person is a US citizen, but it’s okay to ask if they are authorized to work in the US. You also shouldn’t ask “What is your native tongue?” Instead, ask “What languages do your read, write, and speak fluently?” Further, do not ask “What year did you graduate high school?” Instead, ask “Are you over the age of 18?”

Keep in mind that any company member who has contact with a job candidate needs to be knowledgeable of illegal job interview questions. Laws also vary by state, so if you are unsure what you can and should not ask consult a human resources professional or attorney.