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Discriminatory interview questions and how to avoid them

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2020 | Employment Litigation |

The purpose of a job interview is to determine whether a candidate has the necessary qualifications for a position and would contribute positively to your company culture. However, when you interview potential employees, it is important that you not ask questions that could be discriminatory. We understand that you probably do not mean to exclude anyone on the basis of statuses such as age, race/national origin or gender. However, the questions that you ask job candidates may give that impression.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, you should only ask questions that relate directly to the job requirements. There are ways to reframe certain questions in a way that is non-discriminatory while still allowing you to gain the necessary information to make a determination as to the applicant’s fitness for the job.


People over the age of 40 sometimes experience hiring discrimination. Despite their experience and ability to do the job, employers pass them over in favor of younger candidates. Therefore, it is unacceptable to ask a candidate for his or her date of birth. If the job requires that an applicant has attained a certain age, you can ask if he or she can provide verification thereof.


You should not ask a job candidate what his or her native language is. This could suggest discrimination or bias on the basis of national origin. If the job requires the ability to communicate in a language other than English, you can ask what languages the applicant speaks/writes fluently. However, do not ask how the applicant learned a foreign language because that is not relevant.


Establishing salary expectations early on can be beneficial for both you and your prospective employees. However, asking an applicant about his or her salary history could seem like gender discrimination because of a general discrepancy in the earnings of women versus men. Rather than inquiring about salary history, you can ask the applicant about salary expectations for the position you are looking to fill.


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