Yikes! 6 Interview Questions to NEVER Ask Prospective Employees

Beth Dean 08.30.22
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…And what you should ask instead

Say you’re recruiting top talent for your company and find a few excellent candidates. When it’s time for the job interview, you smile, shake hands (or wave hello over Zoom), and sit down for a productive conversation. Your first question is a softball to help warm them up:

“Have you ever been part of the communist party?”

Your star candidate gasps, runs to the nearest lawyer, and files an expensive lawsuit.

This may seem like an extreme example, but we’ve seen this exact question on a job application!

Your company’s job interview process should be thorough enough to decide if the candidate would be a good fit. Some topics, though, are off-limits.

Here are six interview questions to NEVER ask prospective employees, and what you should ask instead.

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Topic: Don’t ask this: Instead, ask this:
Family and Attendance How many children do you have? How old are they? Do you have childcare and transportation lined up? Are you able to work during the times that the job calls for?
Citizenship What country are you or your parents from? What’s your maiden name? Are you legally eligible to work in the U.S.? Have you ever worked under a different name?
Arrests* Have you ever been arrested? Have you been convicted of a crime that would affect your position here?
Disabilities Are you disabled? Can you perform the job’s essential duties, with or without reasonable accommodation?
Military Record What type of military discharge did you receive? What kind of applicable education, training, or work experience did you get in the military?
Language What is your native language? What languages do you speak and write fluently? (only if the job requires additional languages)

*Any question about a person’s criminal history is risky. Several states enacted “ban the box” laws that limit employers from asking about criminal history on job applications. To be safe, confine your questions to the job at hand. Tread carefully and contact Nextep’s HR team for guidance. 

Additionally, there are several topics you should NEVER ask job applicants, even in casual conversation. 

  • What is your race or nationality?
  • Have you ever had an on-the-job injury?
  • What is your religion? Which religious holidays do you observe?
  • What is your gender identity or title (Mrs., Ms., Mr.)? Are you married?
  • How old are you? What is your birth year?
  • What is your medical history? Do you have health conditions?
  • What is your sexual preference?

Generally, if the interview question has anything to do with personal information, including marital, religious, sexual orientation, economic, racial, gender, or health status, just don’t go there! Make sure all of your hiring managers know the laws and are capable of finding the best talent without broaching taboo topics. 

For human resource guidance, including sample interview questions, please contact Nextep’s HR team.

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