Are Your Interviews Legal? | Jobs In MD

Are Your Interviews Legal?


Courtesy of HR Made Simple

The spontaneous and unpredictable - let alone emotional - nature of a job interview makes it an event that can lead to claims of discrimination. Things that you say in the interview, absent-mindedly or not, can later lead to a lawsuit by an unhappy applicant. Here are some don'ts and dos to keep in mind when interviewing.

The Don'ts

  • Don't ask about any characteristic of the applicant that the law prohibits you from considering in making your decision. For example, don't ask an applicant what their religion is, because this is an illegal question.
  • Don't panic if an applicant raises a delicate subject - such as disability or national origin - without any prompting from you. You can't raise such subjects, but the applicant can if they wish to.

The Dos

  • Create lists. Before the interview, create two lists: one of all the tasks that the applicant will have to perform as part of the job and the other of all the skills and experience that you require for the position. This will help you focus on what you really need to know: whether the applicant can do the job. At the interview, you can ask the applicant whether she/he will be able to perform each of the essential tasks, and you can also ask if he/she possesses the requisite skills and experience.
  • Stay consistent. If you use each list with each applicant, you can ensure that you are asking all applicants essentially the same questions, and thus providing equal treatment and opportunity.

Sample Questions

Here are some sensitive categories to be mindful of with examples of what you can and can't ask:


  • Legal: Are you 18 years of age or older? (To determine if the applicant is legally old enough to perform the job)
  • Illegal: How old are you?

Marital Status

  • Legal: Do we employ your spouse? (If your company has a nepotism policy)
  • Illegal: Are you married?


  • Legal: Are you legally authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis?
  • Illegal: Are you a native-born citizen of the United States? Where are you from?


  • Legal: These [provide applicant with list] are the essential functions of the job. How would you perform them?
  • Illegal: Do you have any physical disabilities that would prevent you from doing this job?

Drug & Alcohol Use

  • Legal: Do you currently use illegal drugs?
  • Illegal: Have you ever been addicted to drugs?

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