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Why it's important to proceed with caution during job interviews

When an employee departs or there's a pressing need to expand your workforce, you, the business owner, will work with your hiring manager to examine your options for bringing in a new employee and finalize any job posting for the new position. Once this is complete and resumes are gathered, the next logical step will be to conduct interviews with viable candidates.

It's important for you to understand, however, that whether you decide to conduct these interviews alongside the hiring manager, only participate in second round interviews or leave the matter entirely up to the hiring manager, there are certain questions that you will want to avoid asking as it could spell legal trouble.

Indeed, it's presumed in the eyes of the law that any questions asked during an interview are job-related and that any answers to these questions, in turn, will be used to make hiring decisions. Accordingly, any seemingly innocent question that uncovers personal characteristics about an applicant that are otherwise part of a protected class could be considered circumstantial evidence of illegal discrimination.

What then are some examples of interview inquiries that both business owners and hiring managers should strongly consider avoiding?

  • "Are you married?" or "Do you have any plans to get married?" -- Such questions may be viewed as evidence of an intent to discriminate based on gender, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964    
  • "How many children do you have?" or "Do you have plans to have any kids?" -- Such questions may be viewed as evidence of an intent to discriminate based on gender, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964      
  • "When did you graduate?" -- Such questions may be viewed as evidence of an intent to discriminate based on age, a violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967   
  • "What's your first language?" or "What are the origins of your name?" -- Such questions may be viewed as evidence of an intent to discriminate based on race, national origin or color, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964     

To learn more about your rights and responsibilities as an employer, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional. 

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