3 Questions That You Should Never Ask Candidates (And 5 You Should)

3 Minute Read
Asking the right questions is key. Here is a look at what you can and can’t say during job interviews.
Candidates When you're running a business, there's no room for dead weight on your team, and that's why the hiring process is so important. Especially when your business is a small or mid-sized, the right person can make all the difference. The job interview is an important part of the employee selection process.

When you're interviewing someone, keep in mind that you want to make sure that they have the skill-set you need -- and that their personality will also fit in with your company culture. The job interview is arguably the most crucial part of the hiring process because you meet the candidate face to face.

Asking the right questions during the interview will help you figure out whether the candidate is a good fit for your company. You want to make sure the person will have the right skills and fit with your culture.

The problem is that many common interview questions are illegal. While these questions seem innocent at first glance, be aware that you may not have the right to ask them under federal discrimination laws. Here’s a look at what you can and can’t ask during job interviews.

What You Can't Ask

While you want to know as much about a candidate as possible, asking some types of questions is illegal. These include questions about age, marital state and health. Furthermore, to prevent complications, if you are interviewing more than one person for a specific job, ask each person the same questions.

What Country Are You From?

It's fine to ask a candidate if they are eligible to work in the United States, but it's not okay to ask them where they were born. Furthermore, asking an innocent question about the origin of a candidate's accent can get you in trouble. Even if you are just curious, it is still a no-no to ask.

How Old Are You?

​If you have a minimum age that a candidate must meet, it's fine to ask about that. For example, in many states, if you're running a restaurant, bartenders have to be over 18 to serve alcohol, so it's fine to ask if someone is over 18. However, what can get you in trouble is the simple question: "How old are you?" Avoid asking this question as it could be construed as ageism, which is illegal due to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

Do You Have Any Health Issues?

When it comes to a candidate's health, it's okay to ask them if they can perform all of the listed job tasks, but that's about it. Of course, it's essential to know this information for jobs with demanding physical requirements. For instance, if you are a hiring manager for a shipping company that requires that candidates be able to move heavy boxes, it's perfectly fine to ask if the interviewee if they can lift 50 pounds. However, you absolutely can't ask someone directly how their health is.

Ask These Questions Instead

​It's essential to ask specific questions about what they can do (for example, if they know how to use a particular type of software). Still, perhaps more important are broad, open-ended questions that will give you a sense of what type of worker the candidate truly is. You might ask:
  • What professional achievements are you most proud of?
  • What should I know about you that isn't on your resume?
  • Why do you want this particular job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • What's your greatest weakness as a worker?
Don't ignore your intuition! If you get a sense that the person will be fantastic even if their resume doesn't reflect all of the skills you would like to see, you can hire them anyway. The opposite is also true. If you get a bad vibe from the person, don't hire them even if they look great on paper.

Bottom Line

​It is important to know which questions you can and can’t ask potential employees during interviews. The right questions will help you choose the perfect employee for the job. However, keep in mind that unlawful questions are not acceptable at any time during the interview process. These questions can get you in hot water — so make sure you steer clear of them.

Hiring Team wants to help you through every step of the hiring process, including interview guides, structure, and best hiring practices. Contact us today to see how we can help you hire.

Karyn Moyer

Karyn Moyer

Karyn Moyer is the Marketing Manager at AgHires. Karyn enjoys learning and discovering new ways to help clients to reach their goals. Hiring Team takes the guesswork and frustration out of the hiring process. Your on-demand Hiring Team will cut down your time spent hiring up to 70%.