Top 7 Questions Not to Ask Candidates During a Job Interview

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LinkedIn found that 42%  of recruiters believe that interview bias is a big problem in traditional interviews. 

The questions you ask candidates in interviews have an impact, and some are even illegal to ask. But what illegal interview questions (and useless ones) should you avoid asking?

For some questions, there are even ways that you can rephrase them to get better answers. Keep reading to learn which questions to avoid to keep your interview process as free from bias as possible. 

1. Do You Have Any Kids or Plan To?

This question is on the border of being illegal if a candidate is pregnant. If they are, this could be seen as a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. However, it could also introduce bias. 

You may not even mean to ask this negatively and might be trying to make small talk. However, it’s never a good idea to bring up children in an interview, especially not if you think the candidate could be expecting a child. 

If you decide not to move forward with that candidate, the candidate might take that as a form of discrimination, and you could face legal troubles. 

Instead, it would help if you focused your questions more on whether or not the candidate thinks they can handle specific tasks required of the job. For example, a candidate with no family status may not want to take a position requiring constant traveling or overtime. 

2. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

This is probably one of the most common interview questions because it can help hiring managers and interviewers gauge the candidate’s future plans and whether they’ll align with the company. 

But this question can sometimes make candidates uncomfortable. Some candidates prefer not to discuss their long-term goals, which could lead to stereotypes depending on their career path. 

In some cases, women receive this question more than their male counterparts. When this happens, this could help introduce unconscious bias into the interview process, so you need to be careful and not marginalize any candidates. You should review your interview questions and techniques to ensure every candidate receives the same type of treatment. Having a set of standard questions can help with this. 

3. What Year Did You Graduate?

Whether you’re asking about high school or college graduation, it can be a difficult question to ask because interviewers could be trying to gauge how old a candidate is. And age discrimination can be illegal, especially for people over forty. The only age you need to know about for most jobs is that they’re over eighteen or twenty-one. 

It is easy to ask this question without any intent, but if you decide not to choose that candidate, it could leave you open to state and federal lawsuits.

In addition, you could end up introducing bias by talking about education. For example, if a candidate went to the same high school or college as the interviewer or hiring manager did, this could cause an instant connection. It is harder to interview the candidate objectively when there is a connection. 

4. Do You Have Any Disabilities? 

While some disabilities are apparent, many are invisible. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects some of these disabilities during the job interview process. Even if you never meant to discriminate against disabled people intentionally, you could open your company up to legal problems if you’re not careful. 

However, you can ask the candidate if they think they can complete all the job duties. If they need accommodation, the candidate will bring it up after you offer them a job. 

5. How Much Are You Making At Your Current Position?

While this isn’t one of the illegal job interview questions, it can hurt your company’s strive for equal and fair pay. Offering a candidate a salary based on their previous income can worsen the gender pay gap. 

Instead, you can try to provide a pay range for the salary upfront in your job description. This way, you can let candidates know what you’re offering and weed out some of the job applicants who want to be making more. 

If you don’t want to include it in the job description, you can ask the candidate what some of their salary expectations are.

6. Why Do You Want To Work At This Job?

This seems like a straightforward question, but it can make many applicants uneasy. Many candidates don’t want to disclose why they’re looking for your position. Most candidates have bills they need to pay, but giving that answer won’t impress you as an employer. Instead, they may come up with something that isn’t as genuine. 

Instead of wondering why an applicant applied for the position, take the interview time to assess whether candidates can do the job. The questions should be relevant to the job rather than the candidate’s intentions or personality. 

7. Do You Have Any Hobbies?

Interviewing is stressful and can be awkward for both parties, and many interviewers will try to make the process more comfortable by asking personal questions. However, these open-ended questions can lead to information that influences biases.

For example, someone might be a social activist on the weekend, which could introduce bias into the interview process. And, in some areas, it’s illegal to discriminate based on political affiliation. 

Instead of asking this, figure out if the candidate is a culture match. Will they get along with their team? How are they interacting socially during the interview? 

Discover More Questions Not to Ask Candidates

These are only a few questions not to ask in an interview, but there are many more of them that you should avoid. The best way to prevent accidentally asking them is to create a standardized list of questions you can refer to.

We know that interviewing candidates and finding the right employees are challenging, which is why we’re here to help you. 

If you’re interested in finding hiring help from the recruiting experts, contact us today !


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By Alyssa Harmon