In a casual environment, it may seem perfectly okay to ask someone if they are married or how many kids they have. But not in a job interview.
To make your job interviews legal, follow a slightly modified version of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule of thumb:
- Don’t ask any questions that address the EEOC’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or genetic information subjects, along with anything remotely lifestyle-oriented, such as marital status, political beliefs, or personal habits.
- Don’t tell the applicant anything false or misleading, such as saying, “You’re the best person I’ve spoken to about this job,” or, “If you work hard, you’ll have a job for life.”
It can get tricky since it’s also good interview practice to start with some non-job related small talk to help break the ice to put the applicant at ease. This is why you need to prepare questions for your interviews. Even seasoned interviewers avoid “winging it” or using an off-the-cuff approach. It’s too easy to step on the legal rights of the job applicant with a seemingly innocent, yet possibly discriminatory question or statement. The results of a misstep like that could be, at best, the loss of an otherwise qualified candidate, or, at worst, an expensive lawsuit.