Recruiters: What Not to Ask in an Interview

As a recruiter, you are trained on all sorts of interview styles to narrow down the best candidate for the role. Questions can range from behavioral, situational, position specific or competency-based questions. The interview process often times is kicked off by the recruiter or HR, but typically includes various other individuals as candidates move from one step to the next. It is important that all involved parties are trained on what is and is not legal to ask a candidate in an interview.

Asking an illegal question in an interview could be used to discriminate against the candidate which could open up the company to an investigation by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and potentially lead to a lawsuit.

Here are a few examples of permitted questions and ones to avoid:

  Permitted Not Permitted
  • Only acceptable in certain settings where applicants meet an age requirement established by law (ex. Bars, Casinos).
  • What year were you born?
  • When did you graduate high school?
  • None
  • None
Family Status
  • Are there shifts you cannot work?
  • Are you able to travel for work?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you single? 
  • Do you have any children?
  • Are you planning on having children?
Marital Status
  • None
  • Are you married?
  • Are you single?
  • None
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Are you planning on having children?
  • Accurately describe the job, then ask the candidate if they can perform all essential job functions.
  • Do you have a disability?
  • Have you ever filed a worker's compensation claim?
  • Have you ever suffered a workplace injury?
Race or Color
  • None
  • None
Sex, Orientation, or Gender Identity
  • None
  • What gender do you identify as?
Religion or Creed
  • None
  • Who is your pastor?
  • Do any of your relatives currently work for us or our competitors?
  • Can you provide the names of your relatives who work for us?
  • What is the name of your relatives who work for our competitors?
  • Do you have a high school diploma or equivalent?
  • What degrees do you have?
  • What year did you graduate high school?
Citizenship or National Origin
  • Are you legally eligible to work in the United States?
  • Can you show proof of citizenship/visa/alien registration if we decide to hire you?
  • Are you a US citizen?
  • Can you provide a birth certificate?
  • What country are your parents from?
  • What is your background?
  • Where were you born?
  • How did you learn to speak X language?
Military Service
  • What experience and training did you receive while serving that would be beneficial to this job?
  • Direct questions about discharge or non-US military service.
  • How long have you been at your current address?
  • What is your current address?
  • Do you own your own home, or do you rent?
  • Who do you live with?
  • How are you related to the people you live with?
Arrest Record
  • Inquiries into convictions of crimes related directly to the position applied.
  • Avoid any questions relating to arrests if it is not directly related to the job.
  • What days and shifts can you work?
  • Are there shifts you cannot work?
  • Are you able to travel for work?
  • Do you have a reliable way of getting to work?
  • Avoid questions relating to childcare arrangements.
  • Asking if they own a care only if it is a requirement of a job.
  • How long did you stay at your last role?
  • What were starting and ending job titles?
  • When did you first start working (age discrimination)?
  • Are you a member of a professional organization?
  • Are you a member of the local country club?
  • What sorority did you join?
  • What salary range are you expecting for this position?
    • There are state-wide salary history bans in several US States.
  • What is your current salary?
  • What was your salary in your previous role?

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