Actually, the more pertinent question is what questions can interviewers not ask? That list is rather lengthy, and frankly, it’s easy to cross a line unintentionally.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is illegal to ask a candidate about any of the following:
- Race, Color, or National Origin
- Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation
- Pregnancy status
- Age or Genetic Information
- Marital Status or Number of Children
An attempt to solicit information from job candidates about any of these topics could be construed as an attempt to discriminate and may subject a company to a discrimination lawsuit.
Care must be taken when wording questions about a candidate’s address, work availability, or education as well. For instance, permitted address-related questions include: “How long have you been at your current address? What is your current address?”
However, these inquiries are not allowed: “Do you own your own home or rent? Who do you live with? How are you related to the people you live with?”
“In all states, you can ask about felony convictions before you actually hire an employee. The ban-the-box legislation just prevents you from asking about criminal history before you’re ready to make an offer,” notes Suzanne Lucas. “When you’re ready to make an offer you can do a background check which involves asking about any convictions.”
Keep in mind that an arrest does not mean a person committed a crime, nor does a past conviction immediately disqualify the person from future job opportunities.
For further instruction on this important topic, check out the many resources on the EEOC website.