Questions to Avoid When Conducting an Interview

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Knowing what not to ask can be just as important as knowing what to ask when conducting an interview with a job candidate.

While some questions are inappropriate, others - even those that are seemingly harmless - are downright illegal.


Avoid asking job candidates about anything that is not a factor in the ability to perform a specific job function, such as:

  • Maiden name, marital status, dependent status, or children
  • Birthplace, or the birthplace of their parents, spouse or other close relatives
  • Citizenship or national origin
  • Religious denomination, affiliations, or holidays observed
  • Any questions related to complexion or skin color
  • Questions related to height, weight or age
  • The spouse’s employment
  • The spouse’s name (because providing this information to an interviewer may reveal sexual preference, ethnic background, national origin or similar information
  • Clarifying Mr., Miss or Mrs. or any inquiry regarding gender
  • Inquiries regarding an individual’s physical or mental condition which are not directly related to the requirements of a specific job
  • Arrests, felonies, or misdemeanors that did not result in conviction

In addition, the American Disabilities Act prohibits the following interview questions:

  • Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? If so, for what condition?
  • Is there any health-related reason that you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?
  • How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?
  • Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?

If you are unsure about whether an interview question is appropriate, leave it out.

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