Illegal Interview Questions: What to Avoid

Do you ever go off script in a job interview? While you may think it's harmless, asking about certain topics could land you in a legal nightmare.



Avoiding Illegal Interview Questions

Are you asking illegal questions when interviewing job candidates? In 2017, CNBC conducted a poll on illegal questions in interviews with the Associated Press. More than 1,000 answered as follows:

  • 10% of interviewees were asked if they were pregnant or planning to be
  • 35% were asked their age
  • 35% were asked if they were married

What all of these have in common is that they’re illegal interview questions — the kind that, if asked, could land a company of any size in hot water.

Hiring? Be sure you're asking the right (and legal) questions.

What should I NOT ask about in an interview?

The EEOC bars the following questions during job interviews:

  • Whether the applicant is pregnant
  • Marital status of the applicant or whether the applicant plans to marry
  • Religious affiliation
  • Number and age of children or future childbearing plans
  • Child care arrangements
  • Employment status of spouse
  • Name of spouse
  • Color
  • Country of origin
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Sexual orientation

Do you ever go off script in a job interview? Why that's a dangerous practice...

While that sounds easy enough, interviewers should be cautious with questions that circumvent around direct questions that still provide this information. For example, asking someone what year they graduated high school will still give you an idea of the candidate’s age.

Preventing illegal interview questions — and a big legal nightmare

One of the easiest ways to avoid costly errors when you don’t have a large HR team with experts that oversee compliance is to work with a professional HR outsourcing firm that will do this for you. But before you sign on for outsourced HR services, check to ensure the company you’re talking to includes compliance monitoring and manager training as part of their services. If they say “yes,” press further: what exactly do they do? For example, at Stratus HR, we monitor our clients’ growth and notify them whenever they’ve reached a new compliance threshold and what the regulation in question will mean to the company. We can also review job descriptions and set them up with an applicant tracking system so the application process doesn’t venture into “illegal” territory. (I have personally coached some of our clients’ management teams on what is and isn’t allowed.)

One last thing: you may want to watch some of our Facebook Live videos where we discuss HR topics that concern employers and employees (or prospective ones). I did one that coached employees on what THEY shouldn’t do during an interview. They’re short, fast, free to watch, and definitely worth a look.

For more information, please contact your certified HR expert. Not a current Stratus HR client? Book a consultation today and learn how Stratus can help protect your business.

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