What You Need to Know About Inappropriate Interview Questions

Some Interview Questions Can Be Inappropriate

Some common questions I get from hiring managers are which questions you can “legally” ask and which ones you can’t.  Most are shocked when I say that you can legally ask any question… only to see disappointment on their face when I say “…you just can’t discriminate based on the answer, so it’s best not to ask.” What’s interesting about this conversation is the discussion that follows.

Why do you need to know?

As the barrage of  “Can I ask this?” and “Can I ask that?” continues, I always respond with “Why do you need to know?”

Usually that response stops them in their tracks…

Why do you need to know their age?

What does it matter if they’re married or not?

How does knowing their ethnicity affect their performance?

Is it true that all older employees stay with a company longer?

Stop Making The Process Difficult

The reality is we’re making things way more difficult for ourselves by even considering any type of questioning or bench marking that isn’t directly connected with the competencies for the position.  It complicates a very easy system. The HR community would have you believe it’s a complicated well thought out, difficult process to develop the skills, knowledge, and abilities for a candidate.  When in reality, it’s very simple.

What do they do?

What “stuff” do they need to have to do that job?

When you answer those two questions (thoroughly) you’re essentially making the determination factors.  If you can’t justify the questioning and how it directly relates to the competencies needed, then your questioning is flawed.

When in doubt if your questioning is legal or not, ask yourself, “Why do I need to know?” If you can’t give a legitimate, objective reasoning that matches the skill set, then don’t ask.

Interview no-no’s

What questions have you heard asked that are just purely inappropriate? Let us know! 

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Christine Assaf

Christine Assaf is an experienced HR Professional with a passion for Social Media. Blogging for over three years Christine started HRTact.com, a professional blog, that talks about all these HR related – both from the manager and employee perspective. You will often find her on twitter exchanging HR wisdom from "behind the scenes." A conference speaking veteran, Christine enjoys helping job seekers with skills assessment, resume review, and mock interviews and coaching executives on best strategies. She is also an active participant in Toastmasters, plays Dungeons & Dragons, loves football and running. Christine’s wit and charm light up the “internet” with the perfect combo of HR knowledge and snark. You can connect with Christine on LinkedIn.


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