There are many areas of a job applicant’s life that a person may be curious about, but an employer should steer clear of. This article identifies some of the questions employers should avoid (Interview Don’ts) and things employers you should remember and do when interviewing applicants.
Don’t ask questions about membership in protected classes
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to make employment decisions based on an applicant’s color, sex, race, national origin, or religion. The Minnesota Human Rights Act expands the protected classes upon which employment decisions cannot be based to include, in addition to those created by Title VII: disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, recipients of public assistance, familial status, marital status, membership in a local commission, and age. Examples of generally innocent questions and statements that would prompt a candidate to disclose this information include the following:
- That’s a unique accent, where are you from?
- Questions regarding work life balance or children’s activities
- You look too young to have a PhD degree
- Are you in any social or organizational clubs?
- We are shooting for 200 days without a workplace injury.
- Have you ever been injured on the job?
Don’t use a location that could present obstacles for individuals with disabilities
Of course, an employer cannot think of all the potential obstacles a candidate with disabilities may face. Nonetheless, the employer should at least ensure there are no steps to the interview room, the table is high enough for an individual with a wheelchair to sit comfortably and have an individual prepared to guide the candidate to the interviewing room.
Don’t ask questions about anticipated leaves
- Do you anticipate deployment in the near future?
- What time obligation does your reserve military service require?
- Do plan to start or expand your family?
Don’t cast positions before interviewing candidates
To some extent employers rule out candidates before conducting interviews, but these should be based on justifiable business decisions (e.g. misspellings on resume, candidate was rude to staff). However, employers should not select the physical characteristics (e.g. woman, specific ethnicity) a candidate must have for a position, unless such are bona fide requirements to perform the work.
What Employers Should Do in Interviews:
Candidates for the same positions should be asked generally the same questions. Asking some candidates questions that others were not asked absent a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for doing, so could stand as circumstantial evidence of discrimination.
Redirect the conversation when needed
Whenever a candidate begins disclosing information you cannot make an employment decision on, redirect the conversation. Do not acknowledge the information disclosed and ask additional questions based solely on the candidate’s ability to perform the job.
Ask whether the candidate can perform the job with or without accommodation
To ensure the interviewer does not run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act he/she should not require the candidate to go into further detail. This is ideally a question that should be answered on the application.
Write notes as if they will be used in court. Identify the basis for every decision. What comments made during the interview indicate a candidate is or is not able to perform the job? What entries on the candidate’s resume indicate that he/she does not have the experience or knowledge to complete the job? What interactions during the interview process demonstrate that the candidate is not right for the organization? The answers to these questions should be detailed in the employer’s notes.
- Write interview questions ahead of time
- Avoid questions that require answers identifying membership in a protected class
- Use a quiet room that does not present obstacles for individuals with disabilities
- Take notes