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Management Matters -
Question not to ask when Conducting an Interview

Management Matters: is a New Article series dealing with the issues that arise when managing personnel and how to optimize your current staff in a company.

Question not to ask when Conducting an Interview
July 1st, 2012

When interviewing a candidate, the interviewer should refrain from asking the candidate questions that are illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. This act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the laws pertaining to the discrimination of employees in the workplace and the hiring of potential candidates. Interviewers need to be cautious about the questions they are asking in an interview process in order to prevent lawsuits filed against them due to violating employment laws. Below are some questions that should not be asked along with some questions that are legal to ask:

When wanting to find out if a candidate can legally work for your company there are some questions that are off limits. An interviewer must make sure they are not asking questions about the nationality or race of the candidate.

1) Do Not Ask:

Are you a citizen of the U.S.?
- This question directly inquires about the candidate’s nationality, which is illegal even though the interviewer may want to know if the candidate can legally work in the U.S.

Instead Ask:

Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
After employment, can you submit a document that verifies the right to work or remain in the U.S.?
- This question directly relates to the candidate’s ability to perform the job and does not inquire directly about the nationality of the candidate. The employer is making it clear that they only want to know if the candidate can legally work for the company.

Sometimes an interviewer wants to know how the candidate’s religious background will have an effect on the candidate’s ability to adhere to the company’s work schedule.

2) Do Not Ask:

What religion do you practice?
- This question directly asks about the candidate’s religious affiliation.

Instead Ask:

Is there anything preventing you from working under our required work schedule?
- When an interviewer directs this question to the candidate, they are not directly asking about the candidate’s religious affiliation but rather asking a question that has relevance to the job description.

Many employers want to know how long a candidate is planning on staying in the working world. These kinds of questions can be tricky because there is an element of age involved.

3) Do Not Ask:

When are you planning on retiring?
- This question could be interpreted as a question that is trying to gain information about the candidate’s age, which could be viewed as illegal.

Instead Ask:

What are your long-term career goals?
- This question could help the interviewer gain some insight into what the candidate may do in a couple of years and where their working career is taking them. This question does not involve an age component but it still allows the interviewer to get a gage of how much longer the candidate is going to be part of the work force.

Interviewers have to remember to adhere to the employment discrimination laws in order to avoid legal action filed against their company. Interviewers should try to ask questions that give them the information they want but are still in the confinement of the law. In order to stay within the law, interviewers should make sure their questions are directly relevant to the job.

Along with the legality of the interview process, interviewers should approach the interview process with a professional manner that reflects the way the company conducts its business.

Three things to avoid in the interview process:

  1. 1) Do not over schedule your interviews. When an interviewer has scheduled multiple interviews back to back they run the risk of not being able to conduct all of the interviews they had scheduled. When an interviewer has to reschedule an interview or make the candidate excessively wait for the interview to begin, this could lead potential candidates to believe that the company conducts their business unprofessionally. It could also cause the candidate to believe that this is the way the company conducts all of their business dealings. A company could lose out on a highly qualified candidate in response to their lack of professionalism.

  2. 2) When conducting face-to-face interviews, employers need to make sure the interview is conducted in a professional manner. Interviewers may try and schedule an interview during their lunch break or other break times during their workday. The interviewer must be sure to conduct the interview under the same conditions that they would conduct a usual business meeting. The interviewer should also be dressed professionally. All of these measures should be met in order to relay to the candidate that the company is serious about the hiring process. The interviewer’s behavior gives insight to the candidate about the working environment of the firm they are interviewing for.

  3. 3) Interviewers should not ask questions that make assumptions about the candidate’s personal life. An example of this kind of question would be: If your parents were here right now, what would they say about you? This question assumes that the candidate has a relationship with their parents. The interviewer has no insight into the personal life of the candidate and should not ask questions that portray a sense of ignorance on the interviewers behalf. Interviewers should avoid personal questions that do have any relevance to the job description.

When an interview has been completed, the interviewer should follow up with the candidate after the interview in order to inform the candidate whether company has decided to move forward with the particular candidate or if they have decided to move forward with other candidates. The company should not cut off all communication if they decide to go with another candidate. Some candidates drive for hours in order to interview with the company and they take time out of their day in order to participate in the interview process. The company, out of respect for the candidate, should keep the candidate up to date with where the candidate stands in the interview process.

If a company follows these steps when interviewing a candidate for a potential position in their ranks, the company will lesson the chance of missing out on a highly qualified employee because of a lack of professionalism on the company’s behalf.


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