Top 10 Interview Questions You Should Avoid Asking Applicants

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Interviewing candidates is important. It helps the interviewer get the information needed to choose the best candidate for the job. However, few interviewers are trained to conduct proper interviews. The objective of an interview is to solicit answers to important issues relating to the open position while staying within federal guidelines, a line that is often crossed.

Here are ten questions that should absolutely be off limits during your applicant interviews.

  1. What is your religious affiliation?

There is no reason to inquire about religion in a business interview. The same goes for religious attire e.g. the turban, hijab etc. The better question to pose is, “Weekend and holiday work is sometimes required. Will this pose any challenges to you?”

  1. Are you pregnant?

It is against the federal law to discriminate against any employee because of their marital status or pregnancy. A good way to tackle the issue of availability and dedication that is at the root of this question is to explain to the applicant the expected hours and dedication required and ask whether they will be able to meet the requirements of the job. To be fair, ask this question to all applicants.

  1. Do you have a disability?

The American’s with Disability Act prohibits any inquiries regarding an applicant’s medical condition. If you have any reason to believe the applicant has a disability, you can ask about the possible accommodations he/she might require should he/she get the position. Provided you are upfront and honest about the duties involved and are ready to provide the necessary accommodations, this should not be a problem.

  1. Have you ever been arrested?

In some states, the federal trade commission regulates the use of criminal records by employers. Conduct a bit of research before including this question by checking applicable laws. In states that allow use of criminal histories, use the information provided in a non-discriminatory way. Consider the circumstances, rehabilitation efforts etc.

  1. What is your nationality?

Title seven of the civil rights act prohibits employers with at least fifteen employees from discriminating against applicants on the basis of their nationality, race or color. This question reveals nothing about the applicant in relation to the position and should be avoided completely.

  1. How old are you?

This might be necessary in a business interview with young adults to determine if they are legally allowed to do a particular job. Interviewing for senior positions is another case altogether. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) outlaws discrimination against individuals aged forty and over. A suitable alternative, if there are minimum age requirements for the position, is to inquire if the applicants meet those requirements, which is usually the acceptable form of conduct.

  1. What is your weight?

It doesn’t matter if it’s conversational or during an interview, avoid questions about someone’s height, weight, shape or appearance. Unless the inquiry is directly job-related you might find yourself on the other side of a lawsuit. If the job demands certain levels of physical activity you may ask the applicants if they are able to handle those physical requirements.

  1. Have you ever filed a sexual harassment complaint?

This question clearly is a red-flag for applicants and is not something that an interviewer needs to know in order to decide whether or not someone is qualified for a specific position.This question may make the interviewee feel like you are trying to scope out “potential troublemakers” during the hiring process, not to mention that it is illegal to show bias based on whether someone has filed a complaint or not.

  1. Would you be willing to provide usernames and passwords for your personal social media accounts?

Asking for someone’s social media login information is highly inappropriate. If you want to check an applicant’s social media presence for anything shady, there are much more subtle ways to get the job done than asking for their login information. Keep in mind as well, many states are now prohibiting employers from asking for this information.

  1. Where were your born? What type of accent do you have?

Asking someone about their personal demographics shows cause for discrimination. It is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their demographics, therefore, asking this question would serve no purpose. Again, a person’s birth country has no bearing on whether or not they can successfully complete the job for which they are interviewing.

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