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10 Illegal Interview Questions That Hiring Managers Are Still Asking

November 1, 2016

interview-in-progress.jpgTake a look at these questions:

  • What is your religious affiliation?

  • What political party do you support?

  • What is your ethnicity (or race, or color)?

  • How old are you?

  • Are you married?

  • Are you disabled?

  • Do you drink (or smoke) socially?

  • Are you in debt?

  • Do you have children or plan to?

  • Are you pregnant?

What percentage of hiring managers do you think know that these questions should not be asked during an interview? 95%...90%? Well, it turns out that one-third of hiring managers did not know that these questions are illegal to ask during an interview. Meaning, one out of every three hiring managers could be asking questions that could get them fired or their company sued.

Scary, right?

CareerBuilder recently surveyed more than 2,100 hiring and HR managers across the U.S. and found that many hiring and HR managers were unclear as to what is acceptable versus unacceptable to ask from a legal perspective.

CareerBuilder also took the survey one step forward. They directly asked whether these hiring and HR managers had ever asked one of these questions before. Results showed that 1 in 5 hiring and HR managers had asked an illegal question unknowingly. Oops?

In the case of hiring, ignorance is not bliss. Not knowing what is illegal to ask during a hiring process could take you down a risky slope. Today’s candidates are getting savvier too. They are more likely to know what they can and cannot be asked. They are going to hold you accountable for only asking what’s legally acceptable. Meaning, you will need to hold yourself and your hiring managers accountable for asking the right questions.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid questions related to a candidate’s age, race, origin, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. However, laws are constantly changing and therefore it’s important to keep up to date with these laws or consult with your legal team about changing regulations for the nation or your state.

Another good rule of thumb is to make sure you are asking competency-based questions. All questions should be job-related and should be targeted to assess specific competencies that were found to be important for success based on a job analysis.

A final good rule of thumb that I’ll leave you with is to make sure that you are treating all of your candidates consistently. Providing all candidates with the same opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities is important to ensure fairness. This means that you should be following a structured interview guide.

Overall, the survey results show that education is needed for hiring managers and HR on legal aspects of the hiring process. While it may seem like a big investment to have all hiring managers be trained on these best practices for keeping the hiring process legal, it would be much less expensive than if you were to find yourself being sued by a job candidate for discrimination.

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.