The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a long list of things you can’t do when it comes to interviewing, hiring and managing employees. There is likely a similar list provided by your state and local employment agencies or commissions. (If the hiring process is new to you, you should seek advice from a lawyer with specific knowledge of employment law in your area. ) Via, here are seven questions to avoid any time, anywhere, you are interviewing a potential employee.


1. How old are you?

If you don’t hire minors, you may ask if they are over that age, but all other questions about age are off-limits. Why? According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it’s illegal to inquire about an applicant’s age, since those over 40 are specifically protected by the law.

2. Are you married?

Asking this question can, if the applicant is not hired, lead to accusations of your attempt to seek such information in order to circumvent maternity/paternity leave issues.

3. What country are you from?

While you may ask for documentation, you cannot ask specifically about someone’s nationality. Likewise, you cannot ask about languages the applicant speaks at home. However, you can speak about bilingualism as it relates to requirements of the specific job.

4. What religion do you practice?

Seeking such information in the context of an employment interview is a direct violation of the Civil Rights Act. If you are asking such a question to discover if the applicant can work on weekends or certain holidays, don’t couch the question in the context of religious practices.

5. Do you drink socially?

As alcohol use is legal in the U.S., you have no right to ask what the potential employee does on their time off. Rules related to alcohol use before or during work should be spelled out and discussed—not hinted at during questioning.

6. Do you, or have you, used drugs?

Rather than an open ended question that everyone who has ever taken an asprin would have to answer, “yes,” be specific with such a question: “Are you currently using any illegal drugs?” Employers also have a right to drug test prospective employees, as well as ask about past convictions regarding drug possession.

7. Have you ever been arrested?

In some states, you can ask this question and even conduct a background check. However, you can’t discriminate against a potential employee simply for “being arrested.” The correct way to ask this question is, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”


For additional information regarding legal issues surrounding employment, visit the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

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