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Questions to Avoid When Conducting an Interview

questions to avoid when conducting an interview

In today’s society, a job interview is an opportunity for an applicant to showcase their professional experience and skillset. It’s also a chance for the hiring manager or recruiter to evaluate their qualifications, but this is not typically done without thoroughly questioning the applicant.

When it comes to interviews, hiring managers and recruiters should be sure they’re not asking anything which could be deemed discriminatory. In order for companies to avoid potential legal action from lawsuits such as these, many organizations are now implementing more objective criteria for judging candidates before hiring them.

Fortunately, there are also steps that companies can take to be more aware of what they’re doing when it comes down to interviewing and hiring prospective employees on their own accord.

In the past, feeling like an interview was simply a magic formula for success came as a result of a hiring manager’s ability to be nice, friendly and open to potential candidates. However, this is not the case anymore. Companies and employers have an obligation to avoid discriminatory hiring practices that could potentially lead to lawsuits in the future.

This is where hiring managers and recruiters can avoid any form of discrimination by refraining from asking certain questions or topics that might be a direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As this law states, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion or national origin.” This means that asking questions that appear as seemingly harmless and are well-intentioned could land you or your organization in trouble. 

“How old are you?”

Another example of a question that is rooted in discrimination and inequality. Age is a factor that should never be considered when hiring someone. As society progresses, we are beginning to become more tolerant of people who look, act or are older than others, younger than others or just simply different. This is not only offensive to the job seeker, but it’s also offensive to your company in general because someone’s age has no impact on how successful they will be in their role.

“Where are you from?”

This can be a very touchy subject for both the interviewer and candidate. While you may simply be asking out of curiosity, there is a difference between asking someone where they are from or where they were born or went to school, vs. what cultural background they have, which could speak into their identity and ethnicity. If your main goal is to learn about the person’s cultural background in order to promote diversity and inclusion in your company, that’s great! However, this should not be done during an interview as it has the potential to make you appear insensitive as well as having the problem of being based on stereotypes.

“Do you have any children?”

While this question may appear on the surface as harmless, this question can be extremely invasive and also be seen as insensitive and discriminatory as to whether a person has children or not. There are many people who have different feelings on the issue of having children, and it should not be brought up in an interview. Be mindful of any questions that have the potential to be discriminatory or offensive in this manner.

“Are you single?”

This is probably one of the most offensive questions that can be asked during an interview. Men and women are equal today, and they should be treated that way. While you may have a question regarding marital status, or you may be asking if an individual is ready for a certain task, it’s never okay to ask someone about their personal life. It’s offensive to ask this question and it’s definitely not okay to treat someone differently based on their personal relationship statuses in any way.

Job interview

It is extremely important not to neglect the power of an interview. Asking questions that are specific and relevant to a person’s qualifications is the only way it should be done. If you find yourself asking any of the above questions, rephrase as soon as you can. This will help you avoid any form of discrimination or negativity in your company and also help you turn your interview process into a more productive experience for everybody involved.