What Not to Ask During a Job Interview

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of an applicant's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. Every question you ask should relate to: “How are you qualified to perform the job for which you are applying?” Managers usually land in trouble when they ask for information that's irrelevant to a candidate's ability to do the job.

To avoid the appearance of discrimination during interviews, do not ask any variation of the following questions:

  • Are you married? Divorced?
  • If you're single, are you living with anyone?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you have children? If so, how many and how old are they?
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • What church do you attend?
  • Do you have any debts?
  • Do you belong to any social or political groups?
  • How much and what kinds of insurance do you have?
  • Do you suffer from an illness or disability?
  • Have you been hospitalized? What for?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist?
  • Have you had a major illness recently?
  • How many days of work did you miss last year because of illness?
  • Do you have any disabilities or impairments that might affect your performance in this job?
  • Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
  • Do you plan to get married?
  • Do you intend to start a family?
  • What are your day care plans?
  • Are you comfortable supervising men?
  • What would you do if your husband were transferred?
  • Do you think you could perform the job as well as a man?
  • Are you likely to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act?

If a job candidate reveals information that you're not allowed to ask, don't pursue the topic further. The "she brought it up" excuse won't fly in court, so change the subject right away.

Adapted from White Paper published by The HR Specialist, copyright 2009

For additional information, see WAC 162-12-140 Preemployment Inquiries.

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