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Staying Compliant: Questions To Avoid When Conducting An Interview

Posted September 9, 2015 by Adrienne Smith in Keeping Compliant
Staying compliant when hiring is a challenge that begins in a candidate's job interview. Avoid these five questions when conducting interviews.

Believe it or not, your responsibility to stay compliant begins before you’ve even hired someone.

You'll want to know these questions inside and out to stay compliant with the law.

The interview process is often ground zero for employment law violations. Inappropriate interview questions can run afoul of discrimination laws, potentially resulting in a lawsuit. 

Here are a few thorny topics that might come up during an interview and tips for handling them legally.

What Not To Ask In An Interview

Age

What Not To Ask: 

How old are you? How long have you been working?

What To Ask:

How long have you been working in this industry?

Age discrimination laws cover all applicants and employees 40 and older. Unless you have to confirm a minimum age for employment purposes, don’t ask about age or even high school and college graduation dates.

Pregnancy

What Not To Ask: 

Are you pregnant? Do you plan on getting pregnant in the future?

What To Ask:

What are your long-term career goals? Is there anything you foresee interfering with regular attendance or your ability to work overtime?

Asking questions about pregnancy, children, or maternity leave violates gender discrimination laws. Just don’t bring it up.

Race, Ethnicity, National Origin

What Not To Ask:

Are you a United States citizen? What is your native language? What is your birthplace or national origin?

What To Ask:

Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? What languages do you speak, read, and write fluently?

Don’t ask questions or make comments about race, ethnicity, or national origin.

Religion

What Not To Ask:

What religious holidays do you observe?

What To Ask:

Are you able to work our required schedule?

Also, avoid asking about affiliations with organizations such as clubs, unions, and social groups. Professional associations are fair game.

Drug Use and Criminal History

What Not To Ask:

Have you ever used illegal drugs? Have you ever been arrested?

What To Ask:

Do you currently use illegal drugs? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

You can run into trouble with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you make decisions based on an applicant’s criminal history that result in discrimination against members of certain ethnicities or races.

Avoid making a compliance mistake by steering clear of these interview questions. 

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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.