What Not to Ask Candidates During Job Interviews

What not to do when conducting job interviews

The hiring process can be tough to navigate—not just for those looking for work, but also for companies looking to fill a vacant spot. As an employer, the onslaught of résumés may be the easy part. It’s the interviews that can be particularly tricky. When conducting an interview, what shouldn’t you do? We asked local experts to weigh in.

Don’t ask, “Do you have a car?” An applicant “may not be financially able to buy a car, so your question may come across as your discriminating against a certain type of person,” says Carol Vincie, owner of Productivity Tools & Insights, an online hiring-consulting firm. Instead, ask candidates if they have reliable transportation that would allow them to get to work on time every day. “If they say they can get to work, you shouldn’t care if they run, bike, or drive,” Vincie says.

Don’t ask, “Are you a veteran of the Vietnam War?” This can be considered age discrimination, Vincie says. It’s okay to ask a job candidate if he or she is a veteran—but not of which war.

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Don’t ask a pregnant candidate, “What are your childcare plans?” Some people may rely on daycare rather than being able to pay for an in-home nanny, which “may lend itself to inherently biased decisions,” says Susan Corcoran, partner at Jackson

Lewis LLP, a labor and employment law firm in White Plains. “All that matters is if they can work the hours required,” says Corcoran.

Don’t deny someone employment just because they were convicted of a felony. New York State law prohibits employers from barring employment to a convicted felon, unless the crime committed directly relates to the position they are applying for, Corcoran reports.

Don’t make small talk about personal topics. “You may think you are being friendly when you ask if a candidate has children, or is married,” says Ann Henning, human resources manager for Sprint Nextel in Elmsford. But well-intentioned icebreakers may be deemed discriminatory. “Talk about the weather,” Henning recommends.

Don’t ask, “Where were you born?”  It may seem like a harmless question, but it’s a no-no. “You can only ask if a person is legally authorized to work in the United States,” Henning says. This also extends to asking about native languages. You can ask if a candidate speaks a language required for the job, but never their native language.  

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