The job interview is one of the most important steps in the recruitment process. This is when recruiters and HR professionals truly learn about candidates. That’s why asking the right questions during job interviews is crucial.
However, it’s also essential to avoid asking the wrong questions. You don’t want to focus so much on what you should ask that you end up overlooking what you shouldn’t ask.
These are some of the more noteworthy examples of relatively common job interview questions that should be avoided. If you’re using them during your recruitment process, it’s time to stop, substituting more unique or valuable questions in their place. Doing so could be key to guarding against certain unintended consequences.
When did you graduate from college?
This is an example of the kind of seemingly innocuous question that could result in negative consequences if you were to ask it during a job interview. By asking someone when they graduated from college, you could be accused of age discrimination. Additionally, this information is often already available on a candidate’s resume or application, so you may not need to ask it at all.
That doesn’t mean you can’t ask about their education. It’s still acceptable to ask where they graduated from college and what they studied. During these discussions, they may mention their graduation date without your prompting. Either way, you don’t want to give an applicant any reason to believe they were rejected due to their age. This could potentially result in legal consequences for your company if they are able to successfully prove their case.
How old are your kids?
Questions about kids in general should be avoided in most cases during job interviews. This question might sound like it covers basic “getting to know you” material. In truth, it could indicate to an applicant that your company is biased against people with children. Because many people also associate childcare (oftentimes unfairly) with women, this question could also imply gender discrimination.
If a candidate brings up the fact that they have kids naturally, that’s fine, but it’s best not to ask too much about this topic. You can always revisit it once they’re hired if you believe learning about their children would help you develop a relationship with a new employee.
How often did you fall ill last year?
This is a question that should be avoided at all costs. Unlike the other two examples above, which could be open to an applicant’s interpretation, this question seems to fairly directly let a candidate know the company is biased against people who use their sick days.
Don’t let this happen. When it comes to illness and sick days, this is a topic you don’t want to bring up.
That said, it may be acceptable to ask an interviewee about any potential challenges they believe may prevent them from succeeding or thriving in the role. If a medical issue will be a genuine problem, they might mention it on their own. You still should not let this information bias you against the candidate in question when you eventually make a hiring decision.
Any questions about their living situation
There isn’t just one question to avoid when covering this topic. Many examples, including “With whom do you live?” or “Do you own your home?” and similar questions are all inappropriate for a job interview.
That may not seem to be the case at first. When asking an applicant where they live, you could simply be trying to determine whether a commute will be difficult for them. You can bring up this topic indirectly by asking them if they are comfortable with the office location and hours.
However, if you directly ask questions about their living situation, it could seem as though you’re prying for personal details an applicant shouldn’t be expected to provide. Asking about these details could indicate that the company considers such factors when deciding who to hire, even if that’s not the case.
Why should we hire you?
This is an easy mistake to make. It’s very common in many job interviews. That said, it might not be the best way to develop a positive relationship with candidates. Asking applicants to prove why you should hire them can come across as demanding. It’s a better idea to ask them about what strengths they can bring to the role.
Remember these points the next time you prepare to interview job candidates. Ask the wrong questions, and the consequences can range from making the wrong impression on a strong applicant to legal issues. That’s much less likely to happen when you review your interview questions and remove any that are inappropriate.