Legal Interview Questions

When conducting interviews with potential job candidates, it is important to know how to conduct lawful interviews and avoid questions that may be considered discriminatory. Laws that pertain to interview questions include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (race, color, religion, national origin, sex)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act (citizenship, national origin)
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

Additionally, the State of Alaska prohibits discrimination based on marital status, change in marital status, and parenthood.

When developing interview questions avoid any question that violate these laws. The following are examples of questions which are illegal, along with an example of questions that are permissible.

Age:

Instead of: “When did you graduate from high school?” or “When do you plan to retire?”

Ask: “Do you meet the minimum age requirements for this position?” or “Can you supply transcripts for your education?”

Disability:

Instead of: “Do you have a disability?”, “Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?” or “Do you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?”

Ask: “Can you perform the duties listed in the job description, with or without reasonable accommodation?”

Race:

Questions about race during an interview are prohibited. If information about race is collected for affirmative action purposes or is collected as part of the Form EEO-1, Voluntary Self-Identification, the information must be kept separate from the application and cannot be shared with others or considered during the selection process.

Religion:

Employers may only ask questions and receive information about religion when a bona fide occupational qualification exists, such as when hiring clergy for a religious establishment.

Sex/marital status:

Instead of: “Are you married?”, “When do you plan to start a family?” or “Do you have children?”

Ask: “Are you able to travel frequently?”, “Can you work overtime without notice?”, “Can you work evenings or weekends?” or “When we check references/do a background check, are there other names we should look under?”

National origin/citizenship:

Instead of: “Are you a US citizen?”, “What country are you from?”, “Where’s your accent from?”, “What nationality is your last name?” or “When does your visa expire?”

Ask: “If hired, are you able to provide documentation to prove that you are eligible to work in the US?”

Military:

Instead of: “Please provide the status of your military discharge.”, or “Will you miss work to perform military service?”

Ask: “What experience did you gain in the uniformed service that is relevant to this position?”

In addition to avoiding questions which may be perceived as discriminatory, employers need to be aware of religious and cultural variations that could inadvertently lead to inquiries that are related to a protected characteristic. Clothing, hair styles, or jewelry can all be an indication of a religious or cultural variation that could prompt a question that is illegal.

This list of laws and sample questions is by no means exhaustive, so when in doubt seek legal counsel to review your interview questions for any potential concerns. For additional assistance with your interview questions, contact Carleen Mitchell at cmitchell@akpei.com or (907) 523-9430.