Young business woman passed on a job interview shaking hands with bossThe Interview: You can’t ask that, but you can ask this!

By Jessica Frattali

Hiring managers need to have a basic understanding of the best practices of hiring. This applies not just to those making a final hiring decision, but to every person interviewing a job candidate.

There is a right and a wrong way to get the information you need during the interview process. Test your knowledge by identifying if the following questions would be deemed appropriate to ask while interviewing a potential candidate.  The answer key follows the questions.

1. Do you have a disability that would stop you from performing the essential job functions?
2. How many days were you sick last year?
3. When did you graduate from college?
4. Are you a U.S. citizen?
5. Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime?
6. Are you able to work Sundays?
7. What foreign languages do you speak?
8. If you’re required to work overtime, do you have someone to watch your children?
9. Do you have access to reliable transportation to get to and from work?
10. What off-the-job activities do you participate in?
11. Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?
12. Why were you fired from your last job?

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Answer Key:

Answer 1.

No:  You may not ask if they have a disability, however you can ask…

Can you perform the job functions of this position, as listed on the job description, with or without a reasonable accommodation?

Answer 2.

No:  You may not ask how many sick days were taken, however you can ask…

If we spoke to your supervisor, what would they tell us about your attendance?

Answer 3.

No:  You may not ask any age identifying questions, other than asking if they are at least 18 years of age.  You can however ask…

What college did you attend? What was your major?

Answer 4.

No:  You may not ask about national origin, however you can ask…

If employed, will you be able to produce evidence that you are eligible for employment in the United States?

Answer 5.

No:  In some municipalities (like Buffalo, NY)  you may not ask if a candidate has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony on the application or verbally during the application process, however you can…

Ask  the candidate after they have already been considered for a position – which means during or after an interview. However, it is important to note that if a candidate answers “yes” it cannot be grounds for automatic rejection. Instead, you should consider the type, amount, and recentness in relation to the job.

Answer 6.

Yes:  You may ask the candidate if they will have a problem working on any required work day.

Answer 7.

Yes:  You may ask a candidate only if the job requires bilingual language skills. Be sure you are only asking about the language(s) that would be required for the position.

Answer 8.

No:  You should not ask if a candidate has someone to watch their children, however you can ask…

This job requires occasional overtime of 1-2 hours. Does this schedule present a problem for you?

Answer 9.

Yes:  Unless it’s a requirement of the job, you cannot ask if someone has a car. But, you can ask if they have reliable transportation, which could be the bus, a bike, or a relative who will drive them.

Answer 10.

No:  You cannot ask a candidate about their off-the-job hobbies, however you can ask…

Are you mechanically inclined? Are you a member of any professional organizations in our industry?

Answer 11.

No:  You cannot ask a candidate if they have ever filed a worker’s compensation claim, you can however ask…

Have you ever witnessed a workplace injury or safety hazard? If so, how did you handle the situation?

Answer 12.

Yes:  You can ask why a candidate was terminated from a previous position. The best way to phrase this question is “what caused you to lose your job” and a great follow up question is “What have you learned from being separated?”