Can You Ask That Interview Question? - Glassdoor for Employers
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Can You Ask That Interview Question?

You’re interviewing a job candidate you really want to hire and you’re getting along great. Out of pure curiosity as part of your conversation, you ask her, “Are you married?” Oops. You just stepped on one of the legal confines that are part of the interview process.

There are numerous questions you are prohibited from asking by federal laws during the job interview because the answers can be perceived as leading to discrimination. In other words, if that married candidate doesn’t get the job and a younger, single woman does, the married candidate might sue your business, claiming you discriminated against her because she’s married.

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The good news: You can get the answers to the key questions you want to ask—as long as you phrase them right. Here’s a guide to what not to ask, and how to ask it instead.

Never ask: Whether a person is married, has children, is pregnant, or is planning to get married or have children. Typically, the reasoning behind these types of questions is to find out if the person can work overtime, work odd hours or travel. To get the answer, ask whether the person has a problem working overtime, working nights, working weekends or traveling.

Never ask: “How old are you?” The Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) forbids asking how old a job candidate is. The only exception is if the job requires employees to be a certain age. For instance, if you’re hiring a bartender, you can ask, “Are you of legal age to serve alcohol?”

Never ask: If someone is a U.S. citizen. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) prohibits asking this question. However, you can ask if the person is authorized to work in the U.S., and once you hire someone, they’ll have to fill out an employment eligibility verification (I-9) document to verify their legal status.

Never ask: If a person has physical or mental disabilities, addiction problems or health issues. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits asking about mental or physical disabilities. Instead, let the person know the duties of the job, and ask whether he or she can perform them. If drug testing is required, let them know that, too.

Never ask: About a person’s religious beliefs; this is prohibited by the First Amendment. If you’re concerned that someone’s religion might dictate certain days off or other needs that would interfere with working, ask, “Can you work the days and hours this job requires?”

Never ask: About a person’s race, ethnicity or national origin. Such questions are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What if you want to know this information for affirmative action reasons, such as to show a federal agency you perform government contracting for that your work force is diverse? No worries: Simply include a space on the job application form where the person has the option to volunteer that information.

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