HR Insights

Interview Questions: What Not to Ask

Back to All Posts
Amber Crosby
June 28, 2017

Interviews are a great tool to discover candidates’ backgrounds, qualities, personality traits, and even hang-ups. But with a long list of off-putting—and possibly even unethical or illegal—questions, handling an interview wisely can feel like tip-toeing through a minefield.   Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.

So, what can you ask and what’s strictly off limits?  As a general rule, you want to avoid personal questions. These include direct questions about age, religion, gender, country of origin, disabilities, marital or financial status, and childcare arrangements.

You’re likely already astute enough to steer clear of blatantly inappropriate questions. However, sometimes these topics may be relevant to the role being filled. For example, your job may require a employee to be on-call after hours, and your candidate is a single mom. You shouldn’t directly ask if she has childcare in place, but you can describe the on-call hours needed and inquire if this work schedule would be doable. Best practice: stick to questions about the job itself and not about specific personal details.

Examples of Questions to Avoid

  • How old are you?
  • Where do you go to church?
  • Do you have a history of mental illness?
  • Are you married or single?
  • How many sick days did you take last year?
  • Do you plan on having kids soon or are your pregnant?
  • How’s your credit?

Examples of Acceptable Questions to Ask

  • Are you over 18?
  • This position includes duties after 5 p.m. Are you available to work evenings when needed?
  • What languages are you fluent in?
  • Are you eligible to work in the United States?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Can you lift items that could weigh up to 50 pounds?

Sometimes a candidate volunteers personal information, and while you can’t prevent it, it’s best not to jot it down. Ultimately that information cannot legally be used when making your hiring decision.

To stay on track during the interview, make a list of questions ahead of time. Not only will you be better prepared, but it’ll also help avoid any accidental slips with inappropriate or unethical questions. Or better yet, call us. At That’s Good HR, we’re experts at asking the right questions and finding you the right candidate. Let’s chat! Get in touch today.