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HR Insights with Ali: Conducting a productive - yet legal - interview

Posted on 2/1/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
It may seem unnecessary to worry about getting in hot water for employees that you haven’t even hired, but I am here to tell you that it does happen. One of the biggest mistakes that employers can make is to fail to streamline, or to professionalize, their interview process. This is especially true for smaller offices, when it may seem as if the most important part of the process is getting to know the person you are interviewing. But taking a casual approach to the interview process can lead to interviewers asking improper - or even illegal - interview questions.

The best approach to interviews
When it comes to the interview process, the best advice I can give is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Make sure that the employees conducting the interviews are experienced and are aware of the types of questions they should, and should not, be asking. Having a script or simply a list of relevant questions is never a bad idea. Most importantly, remember that the purpose of the interview is to make sure that the person you are interviewing is capable of doing the work required. Your interview questions should be geared toward solving this inquiry. Asking irrelevant or off-the-cuff questions can lead to trouble in the interview process.

Which questions cannot be asked?
Questions related to the following are always off limits:
  • Race
  • Religion (although you may ask if a person is able to work weekends, if such an inquiry is necessary)
  • Age (other than verifying that an employee is 18 years of age or older)
  • Country of origin (although you may verify proof of legal right to work upon hire)
  • Disability (you may ask if the applicant is able to perform the requirements of the job)
  • Political affiliations
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender (meaning that you cannot make presumptions as to whether someone is capable of performing a job based upon his or her gender)
  • Family status (whether someone is married, has children, etc.)
In addition to the above, it is also a good idea to avoid asking too many personal questions, especially anything related to someone’s financial status, housing neighborhood, etc. I understand that this may make your interview process feel overly “formalized” or impersonal, but the bottom line is that you have to protect your business in all aspects. While you want to find the right person to hire for your position, you should never put your business at risk while doing so.

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