10 Topics to Avoid During Recruiting

Paper Clips 1It is not uncommon for a candidate to receive an inappropriate, or even worse, an illegal question during the interview process. While seemingly innocent, discussion of topics such as family and children can turn into an unlawful employment interview. All interview questions should center on the idea of whether the applicant has the ability to perform the specific job functions. When conducting an interview, err on the side of caution by refraining from asking questions about the following:

  1. Marital status
  2. Family status
  3. Pregnancy/future plans for children
  4. Child care accommodations
  5. Existence of a disability
  6. Citizenship status
  7. National origin
  8. Race of the applicant
  9. Sexual preference
  10. Applicant’s age (unless asking if over the age of 18)

Remember that these topics are off limits during any part of the recruiting process, including meals, social events, and small talk. Additionally, even if the candidate mentions his or her children or any of these other topics, well-intended follow-up questions are impermissible. Below are examples of common questions that may seem appropriate in a conversational setting, but are not appropriate during the employment process.

  • What are the ages of your children?
  • What is your spouse's/partner’s name?
  • That is a unique name, what is the origin of it?
  • What church do you attend?
  • Where were you born?
  • Are you married or engaged?
  • What is your native language?
  • Do you work out regularly?
  • Do you smoke?
  • What is your political affiliation?
Although your intent may be to build a diversified team or to simply get to know the candidate better, these types of questions could potentially lead to discrimination claims. 

For more information on the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws and Discriminatory Practices, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Updated Oct. 23, 2012