As a general rule, any question asked during the selection and interview process must be related to the job and the function of that job. Even “legal” questions can be inappropriate if the employer cannot demonstrate a job related need for asking the question. Additionally, legal questions can also be improper if they are used to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. For example, it can be viewed as discriminatory to only ask females if they are available to work weekends and evenings. While this is a reasonable question, it is considered inappropriate if not asked of all candidates.
Keeping these things in mind, the following list provides some general guidelines on unacceptable and acceptable questions to be asked during the selection and interview process.
Attendance & Reliability
Unacceptable: Do you have any children? Are you pregnant? Are you married?
Acceptable Alternative: What hours and days can you work? Are there specific times that you cannot work? Do you have responsibilities other than work that will interfere with a specific job requirement such as traveling?
Unacceptable: What is your national origin? Where are your parents from?
Acceptable Alternative: Are you legally eligible for employment in the United States?
Date of Birth
Unacceptable: When were you born?
Acceptable Alternative: If hired, are you able to furnish proof that you are over age 18?
For Reference Checking
Unacceptable: What is your maiden name? What are the names of your relatives?
Acceptable Alternative: Have you ever worked under a different name?
Arrests and Convictions
Unacceptable: Have you ever been arrested?
Acceptable Alternative: Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, when, where and what was the disposition of the case?
Unacceptable: What type of discharge did you receive?
Acceptable Alternative: What type of education, training, work experience did you receive while in the military?
For more information, and a more comprehensive list of recommendations, check out our ‘Interviewing Question Resources’ page!