When someone comes to you for a job interview, questions about his or her previous employment, education and experience are all fair game. However, there are questions that a hiring manager cannot ask because they are considered discriminatory and are illegal under federal and state law.
You should be aware of these general classes of questions when you conduct a job interview. Some hiring managers may not be aware of these guidelines themselves, or if they are, they might inadvertently ask a question related to these areas during the course of the interview without realizing it.
The purpose of these laws is to prevent employment discrimination based on a person’s sex, race, religion, national origin, age, or physical disability.
The right of equal protection under the law, guaranteed by the United States Constitution, prohibits employers from treating job candidates unequally because they are a member of a certain group, such as gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.
Examples of questions that are off limits to employers.
How old are you?
Employers have the right to make sure a candidate is old enough to work, but beyond that they cannot ask about a person’s age. This is to protect the candidate from discrimination based on age. You should also be careful about trying to discern the individual’s age in a more roundabout way, such as asking when he graduated from high school or how long she has been working. These questions are also off limits.
Have you ever been arrested?
You can ask a candidate if he or she has been convicted of a crime, but you cannot ask if they have been arrested for anything, since an arrest does not prove a person committed any crime.
Are you married?
This question is off limits because it can be used to discriminate against people in a number of ways. For example, an employer cannot ask if a job candidate has children or is pregnant, as some employers might use that information to disqualify candidates.
What is your religion and national origin?
Questions about religion and national origin are illegal, and a candidate is not required to answer them. Employers are most often interested in a person’s religion to find out what holidays they observe and how that might affect their work scheduling.
Regarding national origin, employers are not allowed to ask a candidate if they are a U.S citizen. However, you can ask if the candidate can legally work in the United States.
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