4 Interview Questions You Can’t Ask Candidates in Your Next Interview
What you say can be used against you in court. Sound like an episode of Cops? The same warning applies when interviewing IT contractors. Some questions, though innocuous in casual conversation, can appear discriminatory in a job interview.
The interview questions you can't ask candidates might surprise you. In fact, knowing what you can ask is one of the most important elements of working with IT contractors in those early stages. To keep your business from facing any litigation, here are a few questions that you should remove from your interview routine.
1.) Do you have a criminal record?
This law is still fresh, so it bears some attention. As of October 27th, 2015, the Fair Chance Act ordinance restricts businesses from inquiring about whether or not a potential employee has a criminal record.
Exceptions exist (for law enforcement agencies and schools in some cases), but the average hiring manager needs to wait until after a conditional job offer has been made to ask about criminal backgrounds.
2.) Are you married? / Do you have any kids?
Personal questions like the two above appear innocent enough. When you find candidates who are a clear culture fit and act personable, a natural impulse is to be friendly and show interest in them as a person. So why are they included with interview questions you can't ask candidates? The discriminatory ways certain interviewers have used these question make both inquiries off limits.
Questions about marital status have been used as a pretext to disqualify candidates who have other life commitments or even make advances. Questions about candidates’ children have been abused to avoid hiring someone who will need to take maternity/paternity leave.
There are a few indirect ways to get answers to the above questions. By asking “have you ever worked under a different name?” you can find out if someone previously worked under a maiden name. And by asking “are you able to travel for work?” you might learn whether or not a candidate has kids. Otherwise, be safe from the start and keep your questioning professional.
3.) Do you participate in any groups or organizations outside of work?
Questions about a candidate’s personal affiliations are illegal for a good reason. When abused, this type of questioning can be used to discriminate against people of a particular religious affiliation, political party, or belief system. A candidate’s personal beliefs has limited impact on their ability to deliver results for your business.
On the other hand, one similar question is completely fine to ask. Asking “are you involved with any professional organizations?” is completely acceptable, because the answer pertains to the job. Though participation in those groups is rarely a differentiator, it can be icing on the cake.
4.) Do you smoke?
Anything related to a candidate’s health is off limits. That includes asking about preexisting conditions, family medical history, and whether or not the candidate smokes or drinks. However, there are ways to find out about a candidate’s habits in a way that is relevant to working scenarios.
During the interview, you are well within your rights to ask a question like this: “have you previously violated company policies forbidding the use of tobacco or alcohol.” Since their response relates to on-the-job behavior, you will not be violating any laws.
Making the Final Call on Interview Questions You Can't Ask
If any question makes you question its legality, make sure that you obtain legal advice to guarantee that your business is not violating any anti-discrimination laws. You don't want the simple mistake of using interview questions you can't ask to hurt your business.
Additionally, we recommend you partner with a staffing agency that knows how to properly screen candidates. We at Donnelly & Moore know what to ask is important to ask candidates without crossing into questionable legal territory. Contact us today to get started on your next hire.