Interview Questions: What You Can and Cannot Ask

When it comes to a job interview, it's important to find out as much as possible about a potential candidate. However, for the person conducting the interview, that does not mean they can ask just any question they choose. While it can be perfectly acceptable to ask questions about a person's educational and professional background, the interviewer should also remember that anti-discrimination laws make a variety of questions off-limits. To gain a better understanding of the interview process, here are some questions you can and cannot ask.

Personal Questions

If you want to find out details about a person's private life, remember that you cannot ask if a person is married or planning to have children. However, if the job involves working unusual hours such as evenings and weekends, or traveling on short notice, you're allowed to ask pertinent questions about these job requirements. And along with this, you're allowed to ask if a person is willing to relocate if necessary, but you cannot discriminate based on a person's location.

Gender and Ethnicity

One of the most problematic areas when it comes to interview questions, gender and ethnicity are generally considered areas in which an interviewer is not allowed to inquire. While it is perfectly fine to ask if a person is legally eligible to work in the United States, inquiries into a person's ethnicity, religion, or nationality are prohibited.

Health and Drug Use

If you are interested in a person's health history, be careful what you ask. Height and weight specifics are not allowed, as is asking about tobacco or prescription drug use. However, you are allowed to ask a job candidate if they have the physical ability to meet the basic requirements of the job, and you can ask about any past illegal drug usage as it relates to previous violations of a company's drug policy.

Criminal Records

While rules vary from state to state, in general you can ask a candidate if they have any prior convictions of such things as embezzlement, especially if it relates to the job for which they have applied. Along with this, you may also inquire about a person's military record, but cannot ask if their discharge was honorable or dishonorable.

In these situations, it's best to avoid asking any questions that you think may be illegal. Rather than find yourself in the middle of a controversy, simply ask questions that are directly related to the job. By doing so, you're sure to get the information needed to make an informed decision.