Top Ten Illegal Job Interview Questions 

Here’s a Simple List of NO-NO’s You Must Never Ask 

    1.  How old are you? 
    2. Are you married?
    3. Do you have kids?
    4. Are you pregnant? Do you plan on having kids soon?
    5. Do you have any disabilities or health problems?
    6. How much do you weigh?  
    7. What’s your race/nationality? 
    8. What’s your religion? Do you celebrate religious holidays? 
    9. What’s your sexual preference? 
    10. Do you use drugs, alcohol or smoke?


No Debate – It’s Settled Law 

These interview questions violate the protected class status as defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That Act specifically states that no one will be denied employment based upon their sex, race, color, religion or national origin. The law was recently expanded to cover sexual orientation/sexual preference status. Three additional laws also prohibit those questions: The Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  


Interview questions concerning the use of drugs, alcohol or smoking/vaping are considered lifestyle questions. While the employer’s intent may be to discover if a candidate is using illegal drugs, it must be remembered that asking candidates whether they are taking prescription drugs or have a history of using unlawful drugs would be prohibited under state and federal disability discrimination statutes. In addition, there are laws that prohibit smoking and the consumption of alcohol in most workplaces and public spaces. Prohibitions of drugs, alcohol or smoking/vaping in the workplace can be bettered covered by a policy as stated in a company’s handbook. 


The BFOQ Exception 

Questions about age, sex, religion and sexual orientation are off-limits – unless it qualifies as a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification [BFOQ], allowing an employer to make employment decisions based on protected classes—if and only if—it’s necessary to operate in a particular business. An example of BFOQ can be found in the airline industry: airline pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65 because documented studies show that’s when their age-related production declines and their performance becomes a public safety risk. 


Appropriate Interview Questions 

Employers need to know if the applicant can come to work day in and day out, complete all tasks, perform the job duties, and cover the work shift. Ask questions that will focus on the performance of the job description. These questions and the candidate’s answers should reveal if they can do the job:  

  • Are you able to perform the following job duties without any problems or issues? 
  • Is there anything that could prohibit you from working the following shift(s)? 
  • We need coverage during the following [hours, days, seasons], is that a problem for you? 
  • This job is physically demanding; can you manage all the job duties efficiently? 


Don’t Ask “Why Not” Follow-Up Questions 

No one needs to know why if the candidate cannot commit to the above performance standards. And asking about the “why not” can prompt a candidate to make inappropriate disclosures. Those disclosures could lead to an unfavorable hiring decision, resulting in a discrimination lawsuit. 


Easy Solution: Let Cardinal Services Handle the Interview! 

Don’t get caught asking the wrong questions or having an inappropriate discussion that can expose your company to litigation. Cardinal is an expert in hiring services done right—our Customer Service Managers can recruit, screen, interview and handle any other hiring services you need. Call us at (800) 342-4742 and find out how Cardinal can help!