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Forbidden Interview Questions

Emily Hartman /
Text: "Ask the HR Expert"

Q: I have a training manual that lists unacceptable employment interview questions, including “any information that the applicant put on his/her resume or application.” Why shouldn’t interview questions be based on application information?

A: Interesting question! This rule might be in your training manual because of an internal policy based on your company’s interviewing process. Check with your supervisor for more clarity.

Asking questions about a person’s application information is important to understanding his or her relevant experience. You should dig deeper into an applicant’s resume to understand his/her experiences, motivation, and potential success at your company.

But you want to avoid interview questions that relate to a protected category. Protected categories include sex, race, religion, color or national origin, age, and people with physical or mental handicaps.

Examples of inappropriate questions:

  • I see you went to undergrad at XXXX University – what year did you graduate? (Age discrimination)
  • Your last name is XXXXX – what ethnicity are you? (Race/ethnicity/national origin discrimination)
  • I  see you volunteer at a church – are you active at that church or other churches in the area? (Religious discrimination)

Bottom line: Unless a policy stops you, ask interview questions about his/her relevant work experiences.

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