44575387_sDo your recruiters and hiring managers know the first rule of hiring? The law assumes that everything asked during job interviews will be used to make hiring decisions. Every interview question should be prepared with that in mind, and limited only to issues required to assess a candidate’s qualifications for the open position. Always avoid illegal, insulting, and irrelevant questions that don’t pertain to job performance and learn how to use legal interview questions.


Plan and Prepare Legal Interview Questions

Don’t go into an employment interview without planning or try to “wing it.” That’s a recipe for illegal interview questioning. Plan the interview by scheduling a time and good location for it and preparing written legal interview questions about the essential skills and qualifications required for the opening. Don’t deviate from prepared questions, and have a worksheet during the interview to note answers and any questions the candidate may ask.

Make sure hiring managers and others who are involved in employment interviews are trained in fair hiring practices, and develop a written interview process to ensure no one conducts interviews without proper preparation.


Focus on Job Relevance

Legal interview questions focus on job relevance, asking about a candidate’s ability to perform essential functions of the job. Ask questions about the candidate and don’t make statements that involve assumptions about a candidate’s abilities.

Focus on asking about ability to perform required functions, such as “This job requires traveling to client sites out of town every month. Are you able to travel for work?” Take care not to make assumptions or statements about visible disabilities such as wheelchairs or mobility impairments while asking about ability to perform job functions. “How long have you been in a wheelchair?” or “What happened to cause your disability?” are not legal interview questions.

Guidelines for Legal and Illegal Interview Questions

It’s important to avoid questions during a job interview that can lead to bias in hiring and focus on questions about job performance. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines the following guidelines for legal interview questions under Federal Law:


SubjectDon’t Do
AgeDon’t ask how old a candidate is or for a birth dateAsk if the applicant can provide proof of being at least 18
Alcohol or drug useDon’t ask if a candidate is an alcoholic  or has been addicted to drugsAsk if a candidate currently uses illegal drugs
Arrest recordDon’t ask if a candidate has ever  been arrestedNo questions about arrest record are allowed
CitizenshipDon’t ask if a candidate is a U.S. citizenAsk if the candidate is legally eligible to work in the U.S.
DisabilitiesDon’t ask questions to find out how a candidate became disabled or what the disability isAsk how the candidate would do the work and whether the candidate could do the job with or without accommodation
Marital and family statusDon’t ask if the candidate is married, has children or childcare, or is pregnant or planning to become pregnantAsk whether the candidate can meet the work schedule
Name and national originDon’t ask about a candidate’s surname, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, or prior marital statusAsk whether candidate has ever worked under a different name, is legally eligible to work in the U.S., and can communicate well enough to perform essential job functions
Race or colorDon’t ask any questions or make any comments about an applicant’s complexion, skin color, personal appearance 
ReligionDon’t ask about religious preference or affiliation unless the hiring institution is a religious affiliated institutionAsk instead whether the candidate can meet the work schedule
SexDo not ask about a candidate’s sex where it is not a bona fide occupational qualificationOnly ask about candidate’s sex if the job has a bona fide occupation qualification for sex such as actor, actress, or locker room attendant


Use a Consistent Interview Process

Carefully planning questions and using the same structured interview process for all candidates will help ensure equal treatment of all candidates and avoid illegal interview questions. Focus on job requirements and candidate performance and abilities for fair hiring practices and legal compliance.


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