5 questions employers should never ask candidates
Sometimes the most innocent intentions can yield serious consequences. This is especially true when it comes to job interviews. While the goal of this type of conversation is for employers to analyze a potential hire's qualifications, small talk is often made along the way. It is during idle chats that some of the most severe violations can be made, so companies must be aware of off-limit questions. Here are a few queries to never bring up during an interview:
Do you have kids?
Consider this scenario: An employer has a framed photo of her kids sitting on her desk. During an interview, the candidate notices the image and remarks how beautiful the family is. This is a natural segue to say something like, "Thank you. Do you have kids of your own?"
While this question may have been used to warm up the conversation, it can spark serious legal trouble. As the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explained, employers have discriminated against women with children in the past. Asking either gender about whether they have children might be cited as evidence of discrimination, so it's best to avoid this question altogether. Similar questions include: "Do you plan on having kids?"; "Are you pregnant?" and "What childcare arrangements do you have?"
Employers who are worried that commitments, whether family or otherwise, might inhibit a candidate's performance can ask job-related questions. These include "Are you able to work during our business hours, which are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.?" or "Will traveling for work be an issue for you?
What is your religious affiliation?
This question can easily come up in conversation, especially if the candidate is wearing a religious symbol like a cross necklace. However, because companies cannot base hiring decisions on a person's religion, it is best to avoid this topic.
It may be important, however, for companies to understand whether a candidate can work on religious holidays or weekends if the business remains open during that time. In this case, a question such as, "Would you be able to work on weekends and holidays?" would suffice.
What nationality are you?
This may seem like an obvious query to avoid, but it can all too easily sneak up in conversations. For example, a candidate might have a strong, non-American accent, making the interviewer curious about where the potential hire comes from. Even more direct questions like, "Are you from England?" can be used as evidence of discrimination.
As Business Insider explains, companies need to find out if the individual is authorized to work in the U.S. The question, "Are you authorized to work in this country?" is perfectly legal. In fact, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, verifying eligibility is required.
What is your maiden name?
This query is off limits because it indirectly solicits information about a person's marital status and targets a specific gender, both of which are illegal. This may come up in conversation if companies are trying to look up information on a candidate. In this case, the employer can ask, "What is your full name?" or "What names are your work records under?" to obtain necessary details to run background checks.
Where did you get that scar?
It's not likely that employers would ask such an abrupt question, but they may be tempted by curiosity if they can relate to the mark in some way. For example, perhaps an interviewer who had open-heart surgery saw a scar peeking through the collar of a candidate's shirt, and wanted to see if that person had a similar procedure done.
In any case, asking this question is illegal, according to career search site Monster. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act, companies cannot discriminate against anyone with a disability or who might appear to have one. Questions about a scar or other mark on the body may solicit information that a business is better off not knowing. However, companies can ask if candidates are capable of performing the job either with or without reasonable accommodations.
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NOTE: The information in this blog is not legal advise. For legal advice, please seek legal counsel.