Most interviewers consider what questions they want to ask a job candidate, but it is also equally important to know what questions not to ask. As many employers know all too well, asking the wrong question (particularly a discriminatory question) can result in potential expensive litigation. As a job candidate, it also important for you to know which questions asked of you are inappropriate.
Questions to Avoid
The EEOC publishes a helpful booklet titled, Employer EEO Responsibilities. Anyone involved in interviewing at any level should be familiar with the guidelines and the law.
What follows are a number of topics to avoid in interviews to avoid scrutiny by the EEOC because they could be evidence of a discriminatory motive.
1. What is your date of birth? Questions that give away an applicant’s age could indicate unlawful discrimination on the basis of age. You may ask if the candidate is 18 or older.
2. Are you available to work on weekends? This question sounds innocent, but according to the EEOC, may demonstrate intent to discriminate by discouraging applicants of certain religions that prohibit working on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. Additionally, you cannot ask if the candidate is a member of any church, religious denomination, or which religious holidays they observe.
3. What is the lowest salary you would accept? Because women have traditionally been paid less than men for the same work, they might be willing to accept lower pay. According to the EEOC, it is unlawful to pay a woman less than a man because of community wage patterns that are based on discrimination.
4. Do you have children under age 18? What are your plans for child care? These questions could be viewed as discriminatory against women if the employer asks them only of women. In addition, federal law prohibits employers from making pre-employment inquiries into child-care arrangements.
5. Are you married? What is your husband or wife’s name? Do you have any children?
6. Do you identify yourself more as black or African American?
7. The applicant’s birthplace, or where his or her parents, spouse or other relatives were born.
8. What nationality is your last name? How did you learn to read, write or speak a foreign language?
9. Were you native born or naturalized? Are your parents citizens, too? When did you become a citizen?
10. Have you ever been arrested for a crime? Have you ever been arrested but not convicted of any particular offense?
11. Name all the groups and organizations of which you are a member. You can ask, “Do you have any experience as a volunteer or club member that may be related to this job?”.
12. Does stress affect your ability to be effective on the job? Have you ever been unable to handle stress at work?
13. Do you have a disability that would prevent you from performing this job? Are you an alcoholic? Do you have AIDS? What effect does being in a wheelchair have on your daily life? What is your corrected vision? What is your uncorrected vision? You can ask, “Do you have the ability to perform this job, with or without accommodations? This job requires you to lift 40 pound kegs and carry them down two flights of stairs. Can you do that, with or without an accommodation? Do you have 20/20 corrected vision?”.