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Illegal interview questions are questions that an employer is not allowed to ask a potential candidate during the interview or within the interview process.  These questions should be avoided and should not be asked under any circumstances.

The law provides candidates with some degrees of protection and discrimination.  You can review our write-up on discrimination and what to do if you feel like you’ve been fired illegally here.

However, from an employer’s perspective, you need to be extra careful to not ask questions which are illegal.  Asking these questions can prompt a lawsuit and you could jeopardize your career.  When interviewing a candidate, regardless of position, you should focus on their experience and their qualifications.  Always ask questions related to their previous work history and their education.  Don’t veer into personal questions or sensitive topics.  Such questions are not only illegal, but they don’t help to further the needs of your department.

Address

Allowed:

Asking for a candidate’s current address, the length of time that they’ve been in that address, and any previous addresses are allowable questions.

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask a candidate who they live with, whether they rent or own their residence, or if they are related to the people that they live with.

Age

Allowed:

Depending on occupation, you are allowed to ask a candidate their age directly as those occupations require a certain age requirement.  You are allowed to ask if the candidate is at least 18 years old.

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask what year they graduated high school or college.  In addition, you are not allowed to ask how long they have been working or when/where they were born if the occupation does not have an age requirement.

Arrest Record

Allowed:

Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than a traffic citation?

Not Allowed:

Have you ever been arrested?

Availability

Allowed:

Specific questions on days and shifts available.  Asking questions to see if a candidate has any days they are unavailable.  Asking questions to confirm travel abilities and having a reliable form or mode of transportation.

Not Allowed:

Be sure to ask the same or similar questions to all candidates.  Never ask questions which could seem to be biased, i.e. ensuring a candidate is available during the weekends when that may be a time of religious observation.

Citizenship or National Origin

Allowed:

Asking if the candidate is legally eligible to work in the United States and that they can prove of citizenship/visa/alien registration if hired.  You are also allowed to ask if the candidate is known as any other name and confirm that they can read, speak, and write in English.

Not Allowed:

You cannot ask directly if the candidate is a United States citizen.  You are also not allowed to ask where the candidate is from ethnically or where their parents are from.  In addition, you cannot ask where they were born.

Credit Inquiries

Not Allowed:

Generally, avoid asking questions about credit inquiries or financial situations.

Disabilities

Allowed:

You are allowed to describe the role and responsibilities and ask the candidate if they are able to perform all of the functions needed.

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask a candidate if they have a disability or if they have ever filed for workers compensation.

Education

Allowed:

You are allowed to ask if the candidate has a high school diploma or equivalent.  In addition, you are allowed to ask the candidates what college or university degrees they have.

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask the year the candidate graduated.

Employment

Allowed:

You are allowed to ask how long a candidate stayed at their last job and what their starting and ending titled were.  You are also allowed to ask what their expected salary is.

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask a candidate when they started working.

Financial Status

Allowed:

You are only allowed to ask if the candidate has a car if it is a requirement of the job.

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask if the candidate owns a car or house.

Height or Weight

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask a candidate about their height or weight.  Avoid this topic and question.

Marital Status

Not Allowed:

You are not allowed to ask questions about marital status, whether the candidate is married or not, or has been ever married.

Military Service

Allowed:

Questions regarding experience and training that would be beneficial to the job function.

Not Allowed:

Any questions about discharge from the military or confidential questions about military service.

Pregnancy

Not Allowed:

Don’t ask any questions regarding pregnancy, if the candidate is trying to get pregnant or trying to start a family.

Race or Color

Not Allowed:

Don’t discuss race or color with any candidate.

Religion or Creed

Not Allowed:

Don’t discuss religion or creed with any candidate.

Sex, Orientation, or Gender Identity

 Not Allowed:

Don’t discuss sex, orientation, or gender identity with any candidate.

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