The purpose of a job interview is to get to know candidates and determine whether they have the necessary qualifications to perform a certain job. Nevertheless, asking questions about protected statuses may make it appear that you are discriminating against certain candidates, even though that may not be your intention.
To avoid allegations of discriminatory hiring practices, the Society for Human Resource Management identifies questions that you should not ask during an interview. It also suggests more acceptable questions that can provide the same information.
1. Do you have any disabilities?
This may seem relevant, but if the applicant has disabilities that do not affect his or her ability to do the work, a broad question like this may make it seem as though you are ready to disqualify candidates based on their disabilities, which is against the law. It is acceptable to ask whether the candidate can perform the required job duties. If the candidate would like to discuss reasonable accommodations for a disability, he or she can bring it up at this point. Otherwise, you can discuss it after hiring, if necessary.
2. What is your maiden name?
A question like this could warrant allegations of discrimination based on national origin, gender or marital status. It is acceptable to ask whether an applicant has ever worked under another name, and it avoids other assumptions.
3. What is your religion?
As an employer, you cannot force workers to keep schedules that would interfere with their religious practices. However, you also cannot ask workers about their religion because it could be discriminatory. It is acceptable to ask if there are specific times when an applicant would not be able to work without requiring them to provide a reason.
If you cannot identify a job-related rationale for asking the question, you should avoid it during the interview. If the line of inquiry is relevant, you can usually figure out a nondiscriminatory way to get the information you need.