When searching for the perfect candidate to fit a role in your business, it’s just as important for you to prepare for the interview as it is for the applicant to do the same. You should be thinking about the thoroughness of the questions, but you should also be thinking about the legality of what you’re asking. 

There are certain questions that you cannot ask in an interview because federal and state laws prohibit it. Protect yourself and your business by familiarizing yourself with what is acceptable to ask in an interview and what is not.

Name

Acceptable: “Have you ever worked for this company under another name?”
Unacceptable: “Have you had any other names?” “What is your maiden name?” 

Birthplace

Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions surrounding an applicant’s birthplace.
Unacceptable: “Where were you born?” “Where were your parents born?”

Age

Acceptable: “Are you over 18 years of age?” If you’re interviewing for a driver, you can ask if the applicant is over 21 years of age.
Unacceptable: “How old are you?” Any questions that are geared towards figuring out the age of the applicant are unacceptable. 

Religion

Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions surrounding an applicant’s religion.
Unacceptable: Any questions about a person’s religion or what days they may need off for religious holidays are unacceptable. 

Work Schedule

Acceptable: “Can you meet the attendance requirements of the position for which you’re applying?”
Unacceptable: “Do you have any health conditions that would lead to absences from work?”

Race

Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions about the applicant’s race or color.
Unacceptable: Any questions that are geared towards determining the race of the applicant are unacceptable. 

Citizenship

Acceptable: “Will you be able to prove you are employable if you are offered the job?”
Unacceptable: “What nationality are you?”

National Origin

Acceptable: “What languages can you read, write or speak?” “How fluent are you?”
Unacceptable: Any questions about an applicant’s lineage or date of entry into the U.S. 

Education

Acceptable: “Tell me about your educational background.”
Unacceptable: “When did you graduate high school?” “When did you receive your degree?” 

Experience

Acceptable: “What is your work experience?” “Do you have experience with the U.S. Armed Forces?” “Why did you leave your last job?”
Unacceptable: “What type of discharge did you receive from the military?” 

Criminal Background

Acceptable: Only follow-up inquiries to the application are acceptable.
Unacceptable: “Have you ever been arrested/indicted for a crime?” 

Relatives

Acceptable: “Do any of your relatives work for the company?” “What are their names?”
Unacceptable: “Are you married?” “What relatives live with you?” “With whom do you reside?”

Physical Condition

Acceptable: “Can you perform the essential functions of the position for which you are interviewing?”
Unacceptable: “Are you disabled?” “Are you healthy?” Any questions concerning Workers’ Compensation claims are also unacceptable. 

Marital Status, Children

Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions about the applicant’s marital status or children.
Unacceptable: Any non-job-related questions that could be used or appear to be used to discriminate against women are unacceptable. 

Economic Status

Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions about the applicant’s economic status.
Unacceptable: Any questions about financial status such as those that are about bankruptcy, car or home
ownership, or garnishments are unacceptable. 

Organizations

Acceptable: Any inquiries into job-related organizations are acceptable.
Unacceptable: “Are you a member of a union?” It is also unacceptable to ask the names of organizations that would indicate race, religion or ancestry. 

Miscellaneous

Acceptable: It is acceptable to inform the applicant that any misstatements made by them may result in immediate termination.
Unacceptable: Any questions that are not related to the position or necessary to evaluate the applicant’s capability to perform the job are unacceptable. 

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