Questions You Should Not Ask in an Interview

John Krautzel
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Interview questions should give you a good idea whether a job applicant is a good fit for the available position. However, that doesn’t mean you can ask whatever questions come to mind. There are certain questions that need to be avoided at all times; some are not ethical, while some are actually illegal. So, before you interview your next candidate, make sure your list of interview questions doesn’t include any of these.

When Do You Plan to Start a Family?

Interview questions that revolve around a woman's family obligations or future family plans are off limits because it's illegal for employers to discriminate based on a person's sex. Because of this, you also can't ask questions such as "What type of child care do you have in place?," "Do you have an emergency child care plan?," or "What are your plans if you become pregnant?"

If you're concerned that a future pregnancy or child care-related problems might affect the applicant's ability to perform her job, you need to ask the job candidate about those specific responsibilities instead. For example, if the job requires a person to travel one week out of the month, you could say "The job requires you to travel one week each month. Do you have any restrictions that would prevent you from traveling?"

What Is Your Current Salary?

In Massachusetts, New York City, and Philadelphia, it's illegal to ask a job applicant to reveal her current salary. Interview questions regarding an applicant's current salary are illegal in these places in hopes of preventing and/or closing large wage gaps between men and women in the workforce. So, if you're trying to get a good idea of what type of salary an applicant expects, instead discuss your company's salary range for the open position to see if it the applicant deems it acceptable.

Do You Have Any Mental or Physical Disabilities?

Again, discrimination is illegal. Employers cannot discriminate against a qualified applicant because of a physical or mental disability. This means you also cannot ask interviewees what type of medication they take regularly or whether they've previously been treated for any type of mental health problems. If you're concerned about your employees' mental or physical health, it's okay to ask them about disabilities after a job offer has been extended. However, you have to ask every new hire the same interview questions.

It's a good idea to walk into an interview with a list of prepared questions to ensure you don't accidentally say or ask something that's not considered interview appropriate. Before your next interview, sit down with someone in your human resources department to create a list of interview questions that will help you understand your applicant without crossing the line.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


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