Overview: There are a host of hazards for employers when interviewing job applicants. The good news is HR can avert these most of these minefields by asking all prospective employees a standard set of interview questions and judging them through the same set of criteria.
Good interviewers should focus on the job requirements, and keep discussions focused primarily on the job. They also should have a solid understanding of the background education or experience needed to perform the position.
In addition, inquiries generally should be open-ended and require applicants to draw upon their actual experiences.
Delving into personal matters during an interview can land an employer in trouble. For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act generally prohibits asking health or disability-related questions in an interview.
In the case of a visible disability, this does not preclude an employer from inquiring if the applicant will need a reasonable accommodation to perform the job.
Questions about marital status, pregnancy or the number of children a candidate has also are improper because these tend to discriminate against female applicants.
Age, national origin, religion and military status are among the other protected characteristics that an employer should avoid asking about during a job interview.
Trends: Although federal law does not prohibit employers from asking about arrest and conviction records during job interviews, several states have placed limitations on the practice.
In addition, a 2012 EEOC Enforcement Guidance says employers should not ask about arrest records and discourages them from automatically disqualifying candidates for convictions that are not job related.
Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect forthcoming state ban the box law affecting private employers.
Updated to reflect forthcoming state E-Verify law.
Updated to reflect expanded Philadelphia ban the box criminal history law, effective March 14, 2016.
Updated to reflect Seattle's new notice and posting requirement under its Fair Chance Employment Ordinance.
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HR considerations for a legally compliant job interview.