Job Interviews

What you can and cannot ask prospective candidates

First and foremost, don’t ever ask about religion, gender, or race. If you do, you could end up facing charges of discrimination.

To make sure you stay on the right side of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), here’s information about what it’s OK to ask about and what it isn’t. Basically, you can’t ask direct questions about topics like marital status, number of children, citizenship, age, genetic makeup, disability, religion, pregnancy status, and more.

Tip: It’s OK to ask, “Do you have a high school diploma or the equivalent?” It’s not OK to ask, “What year did you graduate?”

9 pmMake sure you ask everyone the same questions about working hours and days (not just women re. late hours, for example)

OK To Ask

What are the most common permissible questions to ask? According to Betterteam, (, they are:

• What are your strengths?

• What are your weaknesses?

• What grades did you get in high school or college?

• What were your responsibilities when you worked at job X?

• Why do you want to work here?

• How many people were on your team at your last job?

• Where do you see yourself in five years?

• What will your previous manager/supervisor say when I ask where you needed to improve?

• Why do you want to leave your current company?

• What was your starting salary and final salary at job X?

OK + Not OK

Make sure you ask questions the right way. Here are several examples.

• ADDRESS: OK…How long have you been at your current address? NOT OK…Do you own or rent?

• AGE: OK only if age is a job requirement.

• AVAILABILITY: Make sure you ask everyone the same questions (not just women re. late hours, for example). OK…What days and shifts can you work? Are there shifts you cannot work? NOT OK…Directly asking about weekend work, as it could be seen as a proxy question for religious observance.

• CITIZENSHIP: OK…Are you legally eligible to work in the United States? Can you show proof of citizenship/visa/alien registration if we decide to hire you? NOT OK…Are you a U.S citizen? Can you provide a birth certificate? What country are your parents from? What is your background?

• DISABILITIES: OK…Accurately describe the job and then ask the candidate if they can perform all of the functions. NOT OK…Do you have a disability? Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim? Have you ever suffered a workplace injury?

• EDUCATION: OK…Do you have a high school diploma or the equivalent? What university or college degrees do you have? NOT OK… What year did you graduate high school?

• PERSONAL INFO:  OK…Have you ever worked for us before under any other name? What are the names of your personal references? NOT OK…Did you ever change your name through marriage or court application? What is your maiden name?

For more info on this all-important subject, check out all the great information at, and please tell us how you ask some of the questions addressed above by joining in the conversation on Facebook here.

Erinn Morgan