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Ten Questions Never to Ask During an Interview
Posted 5/1/2018
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Every hiring manager in the modern business world must walk an interesting tightrope between HR policies, political correctness, and being a personable human being. This is especially true when holding interviews as every statement you make and question you ask could be used to misconstrue why an employee might not be hired at the end of the process. Though the interview is about assessing personality and capability, it is vital that specific subjects are avoided. All too often, hiring managers will accidentally cross a line in the course of making friendly conversation or asking casual follow-up questions on a topic. However, no matter how friendly the interview becomes, there are some things you simply cannot ask.

The following is a quick guideline on ten conversational questions you may want to ask, but should absolutely avoid. If you hire the person, you can always ask them later in a purely non-professional setting.

  1. "Where did you grow up?" This is such a casual and harmless question anywhere other than the workplace or during an interview. You may be fascinated by an unusual accent, hairstyle or choice of clothing. It may be overwhelmingly evident that your candidate is from somewhere exotic or unfamiliar but do not ask. This could indicate a bias for or against people of certain ethnic or national backgrounds whether or not you have one.
  2. "How many kids do you have?" or "Are you planning to have kids?" When it comes to hiring, firing and workplace policies, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on "family status". This was initially put in place to prevent employers from, for example, firing pregnant women who they deemed to be no longer of use to the working world. If the candidate mentions his or her kids, you can ask about specific children they bring up, but never ask for information on their number of kids or plans for having kids.
  3. "Where does your husband/wife work?" Along with the family status rule, you should also never bring up anything about a love life. If you see a wedding ring, if you recognize their last name and whether or not you are personally interested in a date should be left at the interview door. Pretend to be ignorant that people even have love lives unless the candidate introduces the subject.
  4. "How old are you?" or "When did you graduate?" There is also a protection against agism discrimination, this time to prevent companies from firing or refusing workers over 40 which means that asking a candidate's age is a no-go. It is even considered bad form to ask if a candidate is clearly under 40. Do not ask their birthday, age, the year they graduated or how many anniversaries they have had. If you really want to know, just check the resume information which should include all the useful dates you need to make your decision.
  5. "Do you have any disabilities for which you would like accommodation?" When filling out their application, candidates are almost universally asked to voluntarily offer disability requests. This should be in your file and you should not inquire any further. You are allowed to ask if the candidate is confident that they can perform the work tasks, but that is it unless they volunteer information about a disability.
  6. "Have you ever been arrested?" Beyond your right to run a background check, a candidate's history with the law is none of your business. Specifically, companies are now officially allowed to care only when there is a conviction on the record. This is to prevent people who were wrongly or mistakenly arrested from being discriminated against.
  7. "What is your maiden name?" Oops, this question may seem harmless but it has been used by some sleazier HR managers to scope out single women or do unauthorized extra "research". Your candidate will have submitted any relevant previous names to their background check form and anything mentioned on that form should stay out of the interview room.
  8. "Do you belong to any organizations or go to any weekly meetings?" You may have meant to ask if the candidate has free time for after-work activities, but asking about organizations or groups is all too close to asking about political, religious or social affiliations which are not relevant to the business. Instead, ask if the candidate has hobbies or time constraints.
  9. "What church to you attend?" Never mention religion. Even if you are a religious organization or have an openly religious founder, religion is one of those topics that should never pass the lips of any HR manager while on the clock or speaking to a coworker. Do not mention churches, beliefs and/or spirituality. This can appear biased.
  10. "Are you a homeowner?" Finally, even if it seems like you and the candidate share a similar interest in home improvement projects, do not ask about a candidate's housing or financial situation. Their finances are their business, their home life is their business and during an interview, it bears no relevance. If you really want to swap timber bracing tips, save it until after a hiring decision has been made.

Getting conversational during an interview can be a great way to lighten the mood and get more relaxed, natural answers. However, there are a lot of personal small-top topics to avoid. Get familiar with your EEOC and know your danger-topics in all their forms, no matter how casual and friendly.

Understanding the do and do nots of the interview process can be a daunting task, let AlphaStaff assist you in making the hiring process easier. To find out how AlphaStaff can provide the HR expertise needed to create efficiencies in your storage business, contact Vice President of Strategic Business Development, Jeniece Carter-Henson, at or at 727-365-6722.

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