To Ask or Not to Ask: Illegal Interview Questions

By   |   July 20th, 2015   |   0 Comments

Before making a hiring decision for your operation you want to make sure that the candidate you hire is a good fit.  An interview is intended to help you make an informed decision about which candidate matches the skills, knowledge and motivation of the position.  Making the right hire reduces your cost per hire, improves your employee turnover rate, as well as improves your staff quality and work environment.


An essential part of interview preparation is formalizing a list of questions for use during the interview.  As you think about the questions you typically ask prospective employees, consider the effectiveness of each question.  Most questions should center on job knowledge and if the employee will be a fit for your operation (likes and dislikes).  Avoiding questions that can be quickly answered yes or no, can help maximize the amount of information you collect from a candidate.  It is also important not to lead the candidate into responding a certain way with phrasing.  Example:  You are a hard worker aren’t you?  Interview questions should help you learn more about the candidate without being overly forceful or intimidating.  Avoid questions or using a tone that is accusing or could make a candidate fill interrogated or uncomfortable.

Finally and most importantly be sure to consider if each question is legal for you to ask.  Do not ask questions that could be perceived to be related to age, gender, race, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or marital status.  Questions revolving around these topics are most often illegal.  If you are unsure if a question is legal it is best to omit it from your list completely.


Below is a list of effective and legal questions you may consider asking during your next interview.

  1. What interests you most about this position, company, etc.?
  2. What has been your most important accomplishment where you now work?
  3. Tell me about a time when you did more than was required in your current/most recent job.
  4. Describe a problem you have solved in the last year. How did you solve the problem?
  5. Think about a time when your work was above standard and a time when it was below standard. Explain both. What were the reasons for the difference in performance?
  6. What is the most difficult challenge you have ever faced? Explain.
  7. Describe the type of person you would most like to have as your supervisor.
  8. Why should I hire you?
  9. What additional strengths do you have that we haven’t talked about?



Below are a few examples of questions that are illegal that you may try wording differently.



Are you a U.S. citizen?

Do you have or plan to have children?

Do you live nearby?

Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations?

How tall are you?

How much do you weigh?

How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?





Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?

Are you available to work overtime?

Are you willing to relocate?

Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations?

Are you able to reach items on a shelf that’s five feet tall?

Are you able to lift boxes weighing up to 50 pounds?

What are your long-term career goals?

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