Each time, you do a dance between finding someone with the right skills who’ll bring value to the work you do and someone who’s a good fit for your business. Being equipped with the right interview questions will help you identify a great hire, but not everyone is fluent in what’s appropriate and inappropriate to ask a job candidate.
When CareerBuilder surveyed hiring managers, 20 percent revealed they’ve unknowingly asked an illegal interview question. Bear in mind, these are HR managers—professionals who should be most aware of a proper hiring process. So when it comes to you and your small business, following the correct legal procedures is crucial when hiring.
When it comes to you and your small business, following the correct legal procedures is crucial when hiring.
For instance, in the United States, both the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent amendments make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant based on race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, political views, age, financial and family status. As a result, it’s illegal to ask certain job interview questions because of the potential for discrimination against a candidate based on their response.
Ready to hire? Ensure an off-the-cuff question doesn’t get you in legal trouble. If you’re not familiar with anti-discrimination laws, here’s a list of 4 subjects to steer away from in your next interview. Note that the following applies to US federal law; it’s important to understand the particular laws for your country or region.
It’s illegal to discriminate based on marital status and number of children. Questions about family status or plans can be used to limit the employment opportunities for women. Generally speaking, you can’t ask any non job-related question regarding marital status or children.
If weekend or evening work is required for the job, you are allowed to ask if a candidate would be available. However, you cannot ask if someone is married, thinking about getting married, is pregnant or plans on having children in the future, if they have kids or what kind of child care arrangement they have. You can read more about the EEO requirements here.
Generally speaking, you’re prohibited from asking about someone’s religious affiliation or beliefs. The only exception is when religion is a part of the job (in legal terms, “a bona fide occupational qualification.” This might apply to religious corporations, schools, associations, etc. From the EEOC: “an employer whose purpose and character is primarily religious is permitted to lean towards hiring persons of the same religion.”
Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws prohibit employers from discriminating against candidates based on financial information…although in this case, there’s no law actually preventing an employer from asking about financial information (like assets, liabilities, credit rating, bankruptcy, ownership of a house, etc.). Here are the specific rules:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places some restrictions on asking medical questions, requiring a medical exam or identifying a disability. You cannot ask a candidate if they have a disability, nor can you ask about an obvious disability. You can ask someone whether they could perform the job (for example, lift a 30-pound box).
Generally speaking, stick to asking questions related to job performance. However, it’s illegal to ask questions that could form a bias in hiring based on race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, political views, age, financial and family status.
Most people understand the basic concepts of a legal hire but sometimes run into trouble when breaking the ice with a candidate. Remember: Keep all your questions within a professional capacity and only ask questions that relate to both the job description and relevant experience. And, finally, I encourage you to ask a similar set of questions each time to ensure equal treatment for those you interview.