In an employment setting, job interview questions determine whether a candidate will be suitable for a specific job position. The job interview is one of the primary ways that an employer can learn about a future worker, and so they must ask them several questions related to their background and the job.
On the other hand, employers cannot ask specific questions, mainly due to employment discrimination laws. Therefore, employers need to be very cautious when developing interview questions to not violate any laws.
What Are the Top Five Interview Questions That Are Legal to Ask?
Most of the time, it comes down to framing the question in a particular way so that it won’t be considered discriminatory. The top five interview questions that are legal to ask are:
- “Do you have the legal right to work in the United States?”– It is legal to ask this question both under employment laws and immigration laws. On the other hand, the employer cannot make immediate personal inquiries regarding the applicant’s personal heritage or national origin. Such inquiries may be categorized as discrimination based on national origin.
- “Can you perform the work associated with this position?” – This is permitted to ensure that the employee can perform the work thoroughly and safely. Nevertheless, the employer cannot inquire about the nature or severity of any disabilities the individual may have; this can lead to disability discrimination.
- “Are you over 18?” – Here, asking about age is acceptable to determine whether the person is of legal age. The employer can’t treat the employee differently from others because of their age (i.e., age discrimination); also, they can’t evaluate the applicant’s age during the interview process.
- “What experience or education qualifies you for this position?”– Asking about credentials or education may be required for specific jobs, especially those that legally require the person to be certified. For entry-level/remedial positions, the employer should not directly ask whether they have a high school diploma.
- Questions about children – In most circumstances, it is acceptable for the employer to ask about the applicant’s children for insurance purposes. It is not acceptable to ask other questions, such as whether the kids live at home or whether the individual plans on having any more kids.
What Questions Are Illegal to Ask During an Interview?
During a job interview, employers are entitled to ask any number of questions relating to a person’s qualifications for the job. This does not mean they can ask any question whatsoever of a job applicant, nor can they require an applicant to answer illegal questions. Illegal interview questions can relate to one’s age, race, gender, national origin, marital status, or religion.
While inquiries relating to these subjects aren’t explicitly illegal, they can imply an illegal motive – to discriminate. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. For this reason, questions that have discriminatory implications based on any protected category which leads to an employer denying you employment are prohibited.
What Are Some Questions Employers Should Not Ask?
Below are questions that employers should never ask potential employees during job interviews:
- Are you pregnant?
- What is your religious affiliation?
- What religious holidays will you need off?
- What is your political affiliation?
- What is your race/ethnicity?
- Where were you born?
- How old are you?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- Are you married?
- Do you have any children, or do you plan to have children in the future?
- How old are your children?
- Are you a U.S. citizen?
- Have you experienced any severe illnesses in the past year?
These questions can all be considered illegal.
How Should I Respond to an Illegal Interview Question?
If you are asked an illegal question during an interview, you have two options:
- Answer the Question: The employer mentions that they get to work at 9 A.M. after they drop off their kids at elementary school, and you also say you have kids yourself. The employer asks you how old your kids are, and you believe the question is innocuous, so you don’t mind answering. In this example and in others where you feel like the question is not asked for a discriminatory purpose, you can always answer the question. Notwithstanding, be aware that you may not get the job based on your answer, even though it’s illegal to deny someone employment based on their response to an illegal question.
- Refuse to Answer: Some interview questions are not benign and have a discriminatory motive. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a time-consuming position that requires extra hours during the holidays, and you are pregnant and due in January, an employer who asks whether you’re pregnant may be attempting to specify your availability for the upcoming holiday season. For this reason, it is smart to tell the interviewer that you think the question is improper and has no relevance to your ability to complete the job at hand. You have the right to decline to answer but do so tactfully not to seem confrontational or difficult.
What Are My Legal Rights If Denied Employment Based on Illegal Questions?
If you think that you are denied employment based on your answer to an illegal interview question, you may wish to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
You must file a charge within 180 calendar days from the alleged discrimination. The Commission will investigate your claim, which takes approximately ten months. If the EEOC cannot determine whether the law was broken, they will send you a Notice of Right to Sue, which gives you the right to file suit in court. If the EEOC decides the law may have been broken, they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer.
What If I Think That an Interview Question Was Discriminatory?
As you can see, all interview questions should be limited to determining information that is strictly applicable to the position being applied for. Any questions beyond this may be an illegal interview question and often lead to a discrimination claim.
If you believe a discrimination claim is discriminatory towards you, you have the right to refuse to answer the question politely. Or, if possible, you can attempt to decipher what the employer’s intent is in asking the question and simply provide them with appropriate information. Frequently, an employer may be just as timid as the applicant. If you think you have been discriminated against, it may be necessary to file a legal claim after obtaining the help of an attorney.
Do I Need a Lawyer For Help With Employment Laws?
Employment interviews can often involve various legal matters that might be challenging to deal with. If you think you have suffered employment discrimination, you may wish to contact an attorney about the best course of action.
You may wish to hire a discrimination lawyer if you have any questions or disputes regarding interview questions. Your lawyer can notify you of your rights under your state’s employment laws. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit, your lawyer can represent you during the court hearings.