Foul Ball! When Interviews Go Out Of Bounds

interview interviews

Remember that interview when you were asked a question that set off an alarm in your head?  It wasn’t something you’d prepared for because it’s not supposed to be asked.  There are questions that, by law, a potential employer is not allowed to use in the interview. Here are a few jaw-dropping questions that have actually been asked in real interviews:

  • When was the last time you did drugs?
  • Do you get PMS?
  • Can you wear more makeup next time?
  • Is that a hickey on your neck?

As a potential employee, you have to know how to respond to questions that are out of bounds.  But if  the roles have changed and it’s you who is looking to add a staff member for the organization or your own team, it’s important to know the rules. Here’s a quick look at what’s okay, and what’s not.

Interviewing Do’s And Don’ts

Generally, you can ask questions that relate to job performance.  But you cannot ask questions that lead to or demonstrate a bias in hiring.  More specifically, take a look at this guide produced by the Harvard Office of Human Resources.

The best quick and easy to remember guide is this:  If the question has anything to do with a protected class, you shouldn’t ask it.  Protected classes include race, religion, national origin, sex (including gender preferences), age, and physical or mental disability.  Beyond that, care must be taken when phrasing questions about family status.

First Time?

There will come a time when you’re asked to do that first interview.  Maybe your boss wants to see how you perform in that situation.  The problem is that in such a situation there’s little or no training about how to conduct the interview.  It’s usually something like “here, ask them these questions and tell them we’ll get back to them.”

Beyond the stress of it being your first experience, there is the reality that you simply are not familiar with what’s okay and not okay to ask.  If you find yourself in this position, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.  The liability for your company, or even yourself, is too great to just jump in without at least some qualified coaching.

Preparing to Interview

Whether it’s in person or a phone interview, if the interview is going to be productive, you’ll want to prepare.  Look over the candidates resume and make notes.  Jot down general and specific questions you want to ask or get clarification on.  Prepare an outline so that you not only keep within legal bounds but so the interview follows a predictable path.

Below you’ll find a great infographic produced by Hireology.  It’s a great reference tool.  Start out with that, and the references cited above, and you’ll be on your way to performing quality, and legal, interviews.



Image credit:  Main.

Jackie LaMar

Beach lover. SoCal dweller. Life is never over unless you surrender. Keep going, the prize IS out there.

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