10 Questions You Can’t Ask A Job Candidate


As a business owner, you have to protect your company against lawsuits and damaging accusations. One way to do that is to make sure you do not use any discriminatory language when it comes to hiring and managing employees.

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess about what’s appropriate or inappropriate to say when interviewing a candidate. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides in-depth details and guidelines on workplace discrimination and the consequences of such actions. As a general rule of thumb…

Here are 10 questions you should never ask a job candidate:

1. How old are you? Or, what’s your date of birth?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. While it does not protect workers under the age of 40, some states do have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination.

2. What color, race or gender are you? What’s your national origin?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from employment discrimination based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

3. What’s your religion, or spiritual beliefs?
The law forbids religious discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, promotions, etc… The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

4. Do you have any disabilities?
Disability discrimination also occurs when an employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably because he/she has a history of a disability. The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

5. Are you pregnant? Do you plan to get pregnant?
Pregnancy discrimination involves treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.

6. Are you married? Do you have children? How many? Or, who will take care of them?
Questions about marital status and number and ages of children are frequently used to discriminate against women and may violate Title VII if used to deny or limit employment opportunities.

7. Have you ever been treated for an addiction to alcohol?
Under the ADA, someone with alcoholism is an individual with a disability. An employer may not discriminate against, and may need to accommodate, a qualified applicant or employee with past or present substantial limitations relating to alcoholism who can competently perform his/her job.

8. How many sick days did you take last year? Have you spent time in a hospital lately?
The ADA places restrictions on employers when it comes to asking job applicants to answer medical questions, take a medical exam, or identify a disability. An employer also may not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions or take a medical exam before making a job offer.

9. Have you ever been arrested?
There is no Federal law that clearly prohibits an employer from asking about arrest and conviction records. However, using such records as an absolute measure to prevent an individual from being hired is not allowed. Since an arrest alone does not necessarily mean that an applicant has committed a crime the employer should not assume that the applicant committed the offense. (Note- Certain states do limit the use of arrest and conviction records by prospective employers, so refer to your local laws before asking this question.)

10. Are you a citizen?
Employers should not ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status. (Note- You can ask if he/she has the legal right to work in the U.S., but can’t blatantly ask about citizenship.)

For more information about what you can and cannot ask a job candidate, refer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Also, remember to consider your local state laws as they may have other restrictions about what you can ask during a job interview. Remember you’re looking for quality employees, not lawsuits— so do not discriminate during your hiring process or in any aspect of employment.

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