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Job interviews help you get to know prospective candidates. However, the goal of your interview is to know your candidates professionally, not personally. The Equal Opportunity Employment Act bans discrimination based on an applicant’s personal characteristics. What may be considered small talk with a stranger in public can be considered inappropriate in an interview. Avoid asking questions that could result in a lawsuit following the job interview.
It is unlawful to discriminate against a job candidate based on race, ethnicity or national origin. Avoid discussing the applicant’s citizenship in a job interview, as that could lead to her ethnic background. You do need to know whether the applicant is a citizen to determine if you can legally hire the person. However, this information usually can be obtained from the job application. If the candidate did not complete an application, consider asking whether she is legally authorized to work in the United States rather than her citizenship status.
A candidate’s age should never be the topic of discussion in an interview. Steer clear of asking the applicant’s date of birth or age in a job interview. Instead focus on the candidate’s past career experiences to determine whether the applicant has enough experience to fulfill the essential job duties. If an applicant seems too young to have the skills required to fulfill a position, discuss the applicant’s previous job experiences. Probe further by performing a background check on the applicant to ensure information included in his resume is truthful.
Asking about an applicant’s marital status has little relevance for most positions. If you are worried about the applicant’s family obligations, discuss whether the applicant understands that working weekends and overtime might be required on short notice. Some employers wonder whether young female applicants will abandon post after getting married to have children. Ask the applicant’s long-term and short-term goals to address this issue.
Asking whether the applicant is a parent can be seen as discrimination based on familial status. Some employers assume that an applicant having children automatically means the candidate’s schedule is restricted. However, this assumption is not always correct and should not be a topic of discussion in a job interview. Consider discussing whether the applicant worked weekends or overtime in previous positions instead of asking whether or not she has children.
Retirement is an important consideration when choosing someone to fill an important role within a company. Similar to having a baby, a person planning to retire in the near future can leave the position open again and you will have to start the hiring process all over again. Avoid asking whether a candidate is planning to retire in the near future. Before relying on the applicant’s talents to fulfill a position, it is important to ask long-term career goals--such as the candidate’s 10-year goals--to determine if his retirement plans don't work well for the position.
Lanae Carr has been an entertainment and lifestyle writer since 2002. She began as a staff writer for the entertainment section of the "Emory Wheel" and she writes for various magazines and e-newsletters related to marketing and entertainment. Carr graduated from Emory University with a bachelor's degree in film studies and English.