Most people involved in their company’s hiring process know you can’t directly ask candidates about their race, age, nationality, disability or gender in a job interview.
However, people may not know that seemingly innocuous questions can be roundabout ways to get at that same information. Asking these questions isn’t illegal per se. The issue is whether or not the information the questions provide could be used to discriminate.
Below are three questions that seem harmless on the surface, but should never be asked because of liability concerns.
What high school graduating class were you?
This question can easily come up during the natural flow of conversation, especially if the candidate and the interviewer are from the same area. It seems like a harmless question and even a good-natured attempt by the interviewer to connect on a personal level.
Unfortunately, reminiscing about high school days can quickly give away a person’s age. If an older candidate is asked this question and then doesn’t get the job, they could charge that age played a role in the hiring process.
How did you get hurt?
If a candidate comes in with a limp or a cast on their arm, it might be only natural, out of concern, to ask the person how they are doing and what happened.
However, concern needs to be put aside in this instance, as this is a professional interaction, not a personal one. Asking a person about an apparent injury can cause them to reveal their condition isn’t temporary, it’s a permanent disability. Once the prospect of a candidate with a known disability has been raised, the company is close to falling in hot water.
Do you and your spouse have kids?
This is another question that falls under the category of: Okay to Ask at a Cocktail Party, But Not in a Job Interview.
Inquiries about family and marital status can put hiring personnel in the middle of a legal minefield. In fact, many states have laws that designate marital and family status as a protected class.
Incidentally, the issue of marital status can get particularly tricky when it comes to female candidates, who may go by “Mrs.” or “Miss.” Women may or may not change their surname when getting married.
Additional items to remember
An applicant is perfectly within their right to bring up something like a disability or difficult background. If a candidate does bring something like this up, the best policy is to not let the conversation dwell on the topic and quickly move on to something else.
Also, don’t be intimidated by the possibility of taking a wrong step. Countless hiring decisions are made each year that don’t receive a complaint regarding discrimination. Simply avoid these questions as a part of your best practices and strive to be as inclusionary in your hiring practices as possible.
At NSC Technologies, we take major legal burdens out of the hands of our clients, making the hiring process faster and reducing liability. Please contact us today to find out how we can help your company succeed.