Asking the Right Questions

We’ve all heard those post job interview sagas from friends or family. Or maybe you’ve even experienced this, where they were asked seemingly ridiculous questions such as, “If you could be any kind of animal, what animal would you be and why?” Employers get creative with questions in hopes of drawing out critical information regarding the candidate’s technical skill and cultural fit. It is okay to be creative during interviews, but it is crucial that questions are job-related and nondiscriminatory. A tip for avoiding a lawsuit due to inappropriate interview questions is writing down your questions before meeting with the candidate. You could take it one step further and get a second set of eyes on your questions by consulting with an HR professional.

Morrison offers a variety of different services to our clients, one of which is recruiting. Prior to performing an interview with a potential candidate, the Consultant assigned to the recruitment creates a template that outlines the questions that will be asked. We create our questions based on the responsibilities detailed in the job posting for the position. When addressing cultural fit questions we avoid any questions related to marital status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national origin, etc. We want to know how this individual will fit into our client’s organizational culture, how they handle ethical dilemmas, what their preferred work environment is, so on and so forth. Asking these questions provides us with information we can relay to our client, which allows them to dig deeper during an in person interview to be sure the candidates is a good “fit”. This also allows us to manage the candidate’s expectations and provide honest insight into the company’s current culture, also allowing them to ask questions if given the opportunity to meet the client face-to-face.

HR Specialist compiled a list of 25 Off-Limits Interview Questions that every individual responsible for performing job interviews should know.

Here is that list:

1. Are you married? Divorced?
2. If you’re single, are you living with anyone?
3. How old are you?
4. Do you have children? If so, how many and how old are they?
5. Do you own or rent your home?
6. What church do you attend?
7. Do you have any debts?
8. Do you belong to any social or political groups?
9. How much and what kinds of insurance do you have?
The following questions could result in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
10. Do you suffer from an illness or disability?
11. Have you ever had or been treated for any of these conditions or diseases?
(followed by a checklist)
12. Have you been hospitalized? What for?
13. Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist?
14. Have you had a major illness recently?
15. How many days of work did you miss last year because of illness?
16. Do you have any disabilities or impairments that might affect your
performance in this job?
17. Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
18. Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
Many companies ask female applicants questions they don’t ask males. Not smart. Here are some questions to avoid with female applicants:
19. Do you plan to get married?
20. Do you intend to start a family?
21. What are your day care plans?
22. Are you comfortable supervising men?
23. What would you do if your husband were transferred?
24. Do you think you could perform the job as well as a man?
25. Are you likely to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act?
Final point: If a job candidate reveals information that you’re not allowed to ask, don’t pursue the topic further. The "she brought it up" excuse won’t fly in court, so change the subject right away.

Every question you ask should somehow relate to this central theme:

“How are you qualified to perform the job you are applying for?”

About the Author
Janae Swartz is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our People Solutions practice. To get in touch with Janae, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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