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Interviews and Questions to Ask

As always, whether or not any particular interview question is lawful or unlawful (as discussed below) will depend on whether or not you’re covered by a law that prohibits the question from being asked.

Similarly, just because a question can be asked during an interview does not mean that it should be asked!  As a general rule, all interview questions should concern the applicant’s ability to perform the duties of the job in question.  Obviously, ensuring that the employee is a good fit for your organization is also important, but should not be the focus of the interview process.  Questions regarding “fit” can be asked, but you should give careful consideration to the question you will ask regarding all subjective job qualifications.


Permitted: If an applicant is over a minimum age. 

Don’t Ask: An applicant’s age, birth date, birth certificate, high school graduation date, or any other question expressing or implying a preference for a specific age group.


Permitted: Unless race is a bona fide occupational qualification for the position, he should not ask any questions about the applicant’s race.

Don’t Ask: Any questions about the applicant’s race

National Origin

Permitted: You can ask an applicant whether he or she is legally authorized to work with in the United States,but you should not ask any questions solely for the purpose of determining the applicant’s national origin.

Don’t Ask: Any questions about the applicants ability to speak particular foreign languages, unless that skill is required for the position in question.  That is, you should not ask an applicant with a Hispanic surname whether or not he or she can speak Spanish.  Likewise, you should not ask any questions regarding surname origin, birthplace of applicant or parents, nationality or national origin, ancestry, or maiden name.


Permitted: Like race, you should not ask any questions about an applicant’s gender.

Don’t Ask: Any questions about an applicant’s gender.

Marital/Family Status

Permitted: Some states do not prohibit discrimination based on marital status or family status.  Even in those states, it is not wise to ask questions about marital status or family status unless it is somehow relevant to the position in question.  Of course, even in states that prohibit discrimination based on marital status or family status, you are permitted to ask whether or not the applicant is related to any one in your current workforce (although that question should only be asked if the company has a policy limiting the employment of relatives).

Don’t Ask: Number of children, family plans, ages of children, marital status, spouse’s occupation, child care arrangements, if they own a car, who they reside with, health care coverage through spouse.

Work Schedule

Permitted: If the applicant is willing to work required work schedules.  If there is anything that would prevent the applicant from meeting scheduled workdays or hours.

Don’t Ask: An applicant’s willingness to work any particular religious holiday.


Permitted: Unless religion is a bona fide occupational qualification for the position in question, you should not ask any questions regarding an applicant’s religion or religious beliefs.  You are, however, permitted to ask an applicant questions about his or her ability to perform the essential functions of the position.  Accordingly, you can ask an applicant if there is anything known to an applicant that would interfere with performing a job, working overtime or weekends (if required by the job), or complying with company policies

Don’t Ask: An applicant’s religious affiliation, religious beliefs or religious holidays observed.


Permitted: If an applicant has any physical conditions that may limit the ability to perform essential duties required of the position.

Don’t Ask: Whether an applicant has physical disabilities, if the applicant has ever had a job-related injury, if the applicant has ever filed a worker’s compensation claim.  You may not ask about the nature or severity of disabilities, past medical problems, recent or past surgeries and dates, or physical handicaps the applicant may have or appear to have.

Credit Rating

Permitted: You may obtain credit information if job related and secured in accordance with procedures in Fair Credit Reporting Act

Don’t Ask: Whether an applicant has any overdue debts, ever filed for bankruptcy, had a wage garnishment, owns or rents a residence

Military Background

Permitted: Questions about the type of experience and skills acquired that are job related.

Don’t Ask: Questions about military service in any other country.


Permitted: Whether the applicant is an active member in any trade or professional organization.

Don’t Ask: If the applicant belongs to, participates in, the activities of any clubs, societies, lodges, or special interest groups (i.e. that may indicate the applicant’s race, religion, etc.)

Category:Best Human Resources Practices


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