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Can I ask that? Beware of the dirty dozen interview questions

More than a third of hiring managers said in a nationwide survey that they weren’t sure whether they could legally ask some questions in job interviews. The poll, conducted by CareerBuilder, also found that 20 percent of the managers had asked a question that they later discovered was illegal.

To protect your company from claims of discrimination, steer clear of asking personal, non-job-related questions during interviews. To familiarize you with territory to avoid, we at TriStarr, a Lancaster, PA recruitment agency, have compiled our “dirty dozen” interview questions. While some of these may not be explicitly illegal, all can convey a discriminatory motive.

  1. Which religion do you practice?
  2. What is your race or ethnicity?
  3. What is your political affiliation?
  4. Do you have children? (Or, are you pregnant or planning to be?)
  5. What is your marital status?
  6. What is your age? (Or, what are your retirement plans?)
  7. What is your sexuality? (Or, what is your gender?)
  8. Do you have any disabilities or medical conditions?
  9. Do you drink alcohol?
  10. What is your height and weight?
  11. How much debt do you have? (However, it is legal to do a credit check.)
  12. What is the location of your residence?

The bottom line is to be sure that questions you ask are relevant to the job. You should be able to get the answers you need without these questions. For example, if a job requires travel or overtime, don’t ask candidates if they have children, rather ask if they can travel or work overtime. Instead of asking when they hope to retire, ask about their long-range professional goals. Rather than ask where they live, ask if they can arrive for work by 8:30. Questions that relate to job requirements can usually provide you with the answers you need.

What about salary history? Can you ask about that? Yes, but that could change. Discussion is growing to make it illegal to ask candidates for their salary history. (The City of Philadelphia has outlawed it, Massachusetts has passed legislation forbidding it, New York and California are considering it and federal legislation has been introduced.) The purpose is to eliminate gender-based pay decisions. With women often being paid less than men, pay decisions based on salary history may perpetuate that disparity.

Employment law changes from year to year, so stay current to avoid potential problems. When interviewing candidates, you want to stay within legal boundaries while obtaining the information you need to make a hiring decision.

That’s why asking the right questions is vital to getting the information necessary to make the best decision. Many companies find it’s to their advantage to use a recruiter or recruiting agency for at least the initial phase of the interviewing process. Professional staffing services know employment law, as well as how to ask the right questions in order to find the right candidate.

If you would like help with interviewing and finding the best person for a professional, full-time position, we hope you will talk with us here at TriStarr, an employment/temp staffing agency and HR consulting firm with recruiters (or headhunters) in Lancaster, PA.

We back our recruiting with our Good People Guarantee. If you aren’t pleased with a new hire within the first few months, our guarantee takes effect. We will replace the person with another candidate at no cost or provide an agreed-upon, prorated refund. But our clients rarely request that because we find the candidates who are a great fit almost every time.

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