If we get really appropriate about it, employers have obligations under state and federal anti-discrimination laws to ensure that their interview questions are related to the job. They cannot ask any questions that may lead to discrimination on the basis of: sex; relationship status; pregnancy; parental status; breastfeeding; age; race; impairment; sexuality; family responsibilities; religion and more.
Here are some questions you may not realise are illegal to ask:
· Have you ever been arrested?
Employers can’t ask this question. They can, however, ask if you've ever been convicted of a crime.
· Are you single or married?
This is illegal and discriminatory and you don’t have to answer. They cannot ask anything that would reveal your marital status or sexual orientation.
· Do you have children?
Questions about family responsibilities are off the table. Questions about how a candidate manages their time and work-life balance are more appropriate.
· How old are you/ what is your birthday?
This one is clearly in breach of the law and irrelevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job.
· Is English your first language?
This question relates to the candidate’s race and they do not have to be answer this as it may open them up to discrimination.
· What year did you graduate from school or university?
This can be used to determine your age and is illegal to ask.
As a working mother dealing with parents every day of the week, I like to understand their family obligations because children are a central theme in whether candidates want flexibility or to power ahead in their career. Am I ever likely to ask whether English is someone’s first language, it would probably be very apparent but I most certainly would ask someone to prepare a brief expose for me of their skills, experience and suitability for a job, bullet points would suffice, so I can gain a better understanding of their written and oral communication skills.
Interviews throw up all sorts of wobblies. I believe that respecting someone’s individuality, trying to understand their needs and not clumsily treating them like the next applicant off the conveyer belt is a good way of finding out what really makes them tick and, all too often, even I am surprised by what I uncover.
Check out these resources for more info:
Blue Sky Careers offers group training sessions and individual ‘interviewing skills for managers’ sessions. For assistance writing interview questions that will find you the best employee for the job and comply with your statutory obligations, contact Roisin at Blue Sky Careers now.