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Questions You Should Never Ask A Job Applicant

Six Steps Every Employer Should Take

Questions You Should Never Ask A Job Applicant
©2019, Melissa C. Marsh.
Written: 5/24/2002  
By: Melissa C. Marsh

Employment Laws Affecting The Hiring Of A New Employee

Common sense unfortunately does not work when interviewing new applicants. Unfortunately, some of the legal issues surrounding the hiring process are not as straightforward as you may think. This article provides a brief overview on how to keep the hiring process legal, but does not address every situation or concern. Remember, employment law changes quickly with new court decisions occurring monthly, if not daily. When in doubt, consult a local employment attorney. Do not try to be penny wise and pound foolish-- failing to do so could be very costly.

In the United States, federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants on the basis of race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, and physical handicap. In some states and localities additional characteristics, such as sexual orientation, may also be prohibited.

Although the actual law seems straightforward, court interpretations have more narrowly defined what constitutes discriminatory hiring practices. The most innocent questions that seem to even just slightly touch upon a protected class often have been deemed illegal.

As a rule of thumb, job interview questions should focus specifically on the applicant's ability to successfully perform the duties inherent to the position being applied for. Following is a list of 8 questions you should never ask a job applicant.

8 Questions Employers Should Never Ask A Job Applicant

  1. Are you married? Questions relating to the sex of the applicant are illegal, including questions regarding the applicant's marital status.

  2. Do you have children? Similarly, questions relating to the applicant's family life are also illegal because such questions can lead to discrimination against women.

  3. How old are you? It is illegal to ask a job applicant his or her age, especially if the applicant appears to be over the age of 40. You may, however, ask a job applicant if he or she is over the age of eighteen.

  4. Did you graduate from high school or college? Unless a position requires skilled labor, or a specific expertise, the employer should refrain from asking potential applicants if they have an educational degree. In some cases, these types of questions can be construed as discriminatory because some minorities have less educational opportunities.

  5. Have you ever been arrested? While you may ask if someone has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, you cannot and should not ask whether someone has ever been arrested.
  6. How much do you weigh? All questions relating to physical appearance are illegal and should be avoided.

  7. What country are you from? Questions concerning national origin, (where were your born, what is your native language, are you a citizen) are clearly discriminatory-- national orgin should not be a factor in whether or not a job applicant is qualified.

  8. Are you handicapped? While you may ask a job applicant if they are capable of performing the listed services, you cannot ask about an individual's possible handicaps.

Create a Set Of legal Job Interview Questions

These 8 questions are examples of the most commonly asked questions that violate employment laws. They represent only a starting point. Consider spending 15 minutes with an attorney to ensure your hiring practices are safe and legal.

Copyright 1999-2019 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved. All Information on this website is subject to a Disclaimer and Use Agreement. This information is provided as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. We advise you to seek the advice of competent legal counsel to address your own specific questions, facts and circumstances.

All information on this site is subject to a Disclaimer and Use Agreement

© Copyright 1999-2019 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved