March 5, 2019

Things You Shouldn’t Ask In A Job Interview

By Paul Bieber

What? You mean I can’t ask the questions I have always asked? What? I can’t ask about her husband or his wife? Yup, these and many other questions can definitely get you into hot water. Read on to find out what you can’t say and how to get around these restrictions.

If you ask just one of the “forbidden” questions, and you don’t hire this applicant, you can be in a mess of trouble.  It can cost you time, lawyer’s fees and settlement fees if you are found to be guilty.  You can’t ask anything that doesn’t apply to the job criteria at hand.  For instance:

  • How old are you?
  • What church do you attend?
  • If you are single, are you living with another person?
  • Do you have children?  How old are they? How many do you have?
  • Are engaged, married or divorced?
  • Do you live in an apartment or a home? Do you own your home?
  • Do you belong to any social or political groups?

All of these questions can be cause for a discrimination complaint if this candidate doesn’t get the job.  How often can this really occur?  It can happen with anyone you interview.  What do you do?  DON’T ASK THESE QUESTIONS!  On the other hand there are things you want to know and you need to know about candidates.  You can ask:

  • Are you available to work overtime?
  • Can you work an occasional weekend?
  • Tell me about your last job and what you did there.
  • Did you get along with the people at your last job?
  • Why did you leave or why are you planning to leave?
  • Tell me about your supervisor at your last job.

Listen to the answers to these questions carefully and expand your questioning when you don’t get a clear answer.  For instance, let’s look at “Did you get along with the people at your last job?  This could be a “yes” or “no” answer.  If so, ask why. Ask what impact this had on the previous job?

There is one very good catch all question that I always asked, “tell me about yourself?” And then you listen.  Just listen.  If a candidate brings up they are a religious person, just listen.  Don’t say, “what church do you go to?”  Trust me, all you want to do is listen.  You will learn a lot about a person with this question.  If a candidate starts telling you about medical histories, listen for a short time and then cut them short.  You don’t want to ask anything further that is not directly job related.  You can ask, “can you lift a fifty-pound box” if that is done every day in the position at hand.  You can ask if they have a driver’s license and are accident free for a couple of years, but you can’t ask what their personal car is.

Don’t leave a chance that you didn’t hire this person for the wrong reason.  Yes, it complicates the hiring process, but that is a lot better than defending yourself in court.