In your quest to find the most qualified, compatible employee, few steps will be as crucial as the interview process. This is your chance to watch a prospective hire jump off the resume page and become a three-dimensional human being right before your eyes rather than just a collection of bullet points.
An interview is not, however, a freewheeling, anything-goes discussion. It is a conversation regulated by state and federal law—and you want to make sure to remain on the right side of both.
To that end, the following primer will help you remain within the guardrails while getting a true sense of the person seated across from you.
Employers can ask a bit about availability—which days or shifts a person can or cannot work, for example. Avoid inquiring directly about weekends, however, as this can be seen as a veiled question about a prospective employee’s religious practice. Further, be consistent with all applicants: If you only ask this question of a single candidate or group of candidates, it can be seen as discrimination.
Do not ask someone directly if they have a disability or have ever filed for worker’s compensation. This could be seen as discriminatory. Better to prospective candidates with a full and accurate description of the job—then inquire more generally whether they will be able to handle all the aspects of the role.
Asking someone if they are married, single, or have children can be seen as discriminatory. Instead, ask if they have any commitments that might affect their schedule. This is a broader question that applies to any potential job applicant.
Unless specifically related to fulfilling the duties of a position, asking a prospective hire if they have a bank account, own a home or car, or any other credit-related question is likely not a great idea. For more insight into whether a given inquiry may or may not be acceptable, see the Credit Reporting Act of 1970 and the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996.
If it pertains to the position, you can ask someone about skills they developed or training they received while serving the military. You cannot ask specific questions about someone’s discharge or military service for a foreign government.
Even if the person applying for the role is clearly pregnant, avoid related questions. Much as with disabilities or family status, instead ask about, say, planned leave or describe the job and ask if they will be able to perform all the tasks it requires.
Race or color
There are virtually no questions that should be asked about race or color unless it is a legitimate qualification for the position.
Religion or creed
Again, asking any questions about religion or creed is best avoided. It is a personal and legal minefield.
You should only ask about convictions in an interview if the job has a security element that requires it—say, if the candidate will be working with customer’s sensitive personal information or handling large amounts of money with limited supervision. Otherwise, best not to inquire about convictions.
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