You Can’t Ask That!

Here’s a quick list for you to print out and slide under the glass on your desktop. These are the questions that you can’t ask an applicant when you are interviewing them. Okay, you can ask them. Nobody’s stopping you. But you won’t ask them if you are smart, rational, prudent and consider a discrimination lawsuit against you or your company a big waste of your valuable time, money, energy and emotion.

Don’t ask:

  • Where are you from? Where did you grow up? What kind of accent is that? (national origin discrimination)
  • When were you born? When did you graduate from high school? How old are you? What is your birthdate? (age discrimination)
  • Where do you go to church? Do you believe in Jesus? What do you do with your Sundays? (religious discrimination)
  • Are you married? Do you have kids? Where does your husband work? Who takes care of your kids after school? (gender discrimination)
  • Have you ever been arrested? What for? (possible racial discrimination)
  • Are you a U.S. citizen? (national origin discrimination)
  • Have you ever made a worker’s compensation claim? Have you ever been injured on the job? How’s your back? (disability discrimination)
  • Do you belong to a union? Have you ever belonged to a union? Are you sympathetic with union members? (violation of the National Labor Relations Act)
  • Have you ever used illegal drugs? Have you ever had a problem with alcohol? What medications are you on? Do you have any physical or mental impairments? What’s wrong with your arm, leg, hearing, speech, etc.? (disability discrimination)
  • Are you pregnant? Are you planning on having kids? (pregnancy and/or gender discrimination)
  • Have you ever declared bankruptcy? (discrimination under the Bankruptcy Act)
  • What clubs and organizations do you belong to? What causes do you support? (this could reveal illnesses, religious beliefs, family issues, marital status, race and other grounds on which you could be accused of discriminating)
  • Is English your first language? Do you know that we have an English-only policy? (national origin discrimination)
  • Do you have elderly parents or an illness in the family that would take you away from work? (disability discrimination)

If this seems like a whole bunch of rules to remember, try focusing on this one rule: If your question isn’t related to how the applicant could perform the job, don’t ask it.

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