Today's Date is April 9, 2020

Illegal Interview Questions

You've just finished your face-to-face interview with a very promising candidate and the outcome looks good. The candidate has proven that he/she has the educational background, the technical skills and the managerial presence the company's been seeking. A comfortable rapport has been established between the two of you and you feel confident that you'll be extending an offer by the day's end.

Then, as the candidate stands up to leave your office, you shake hands, smile, and casually remark, "You know, you've got the most interesting accent."

"Um, thanks," the candidate replies, a little embarrassed.

You laugh. "Sure. Hey, before you leave, I'm dying to know: Where were you born?"

Though your intentions might be innocent, you, as a hiring manager have just asked an inappropriate, possibly even illegal, question. And though the candidate is under no legal obligation to respond, he/she doesn't want to appear rude. After all, he/she has made it this far; they can't just say nothing. And yet if they do answer that they were born, say, outside of the U.S.—regardless of their current work status—they might unintentionally be giving you and your company a reason to discriminate against them.

Discriminatory interviews are virtually unthinkable in an era where federal, state and local laws exist to give all candidates the fairest possible shot at a job. But the law can't keep interviewers from hiding behind creative wording. Candidates know their rights and are prepared to defend those rights when they think they did not land the job due to discrimination. Just remember: During routine small talk, you might not realize that you are breaking the law; so don’t be surprised if a candidate asks you to clarify any question that makes them uncomfortable. They are within their rights to do so.

Illegal QuestionsLegal Variation(s)
Are you a U.S. citizen?

Where were you/your parents born?
Are you authorized to work in the United States?
What's your native tongue? What languages do you read, speak or write fluently?" [NOTE: Must be relevant to every candidate's ability to perform the job.]
How old are you?

When did you graduate from college?

What is your birthday?
Are you over the age of 18?
Do you have any disabilities?

Have you had any illnesses or operations? If yes, list and give dates

When was your last physical exam?

How is your family's health?

When did you lose your eyesight?
Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations? [NOTE: The interviewer must first thoroughly describe the job.]

[As part of the hiring process, after a job offer has been made you will be required to undergo a medical exam. Exam results must be kept strictly confidential, except medical/safety personnel may be informed if emergency medical treatment is required, and supervisors may be informed about necessary job accommodations, based on the exam results.]
Are you married or living with a partner?

Do you have children?

Are you planning to have a family someday?

Do you have a daycare provider?
Would you be willing to relocate if necessary?

The job requires occasional overtime.

Would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary? [NOTE: OK as long as all applicants are asked the same question.]
The job requires 25 percent travel. Will someone be able to look after your children while you're on the road?Travel is an important part of the job. Would you be willing to travel, as the job requires? [NOTE: OK as long as all applicants are asked the same question.]
Have you ever been arrested?Have you ever been convicted of [crime name]? [NOTE: The crime should be related to your ability to perform the job for which you're interviewing.]
Candidates who served in the military: Were you honorably discharged?In what branch of the Armed Forces did you serve?

What kinds of training or education did you receive while in the military?
How do you feel about gay people?Would you have any reservations about working in an office where the majority of people were gay or lesbian?
How tall are you?
How much do you weigh?
Are you able to lift a 50-pound object and carry it 100 yards? This is part of the job. [NOTE: This question is not acceptable unless minimum physical standards are essential for safe job performance.]
Are you a member of any clubs or social organizations?
Which ones?
Do you belong to any professional or trade organizations that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this job?

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