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When Interview Questions Lead Astray

There are different ways companies can choose to conduct interviews. As an example, interview for behavioral or cultural fit, interview for skills and experience, or a combination of both. Either way, a company decides is the best way to find the right employees, it is important that those involved in the interview process have some general training on what they can or can not ask.

I often sit with new hiring managers and provide general training. It surprises most of them when we get to the areas that we will avoid asking about or discussing while interviewing. I also provide tips on what to avoid in the initial chit-chat stage of the interview, which can lead to the discovery of protected areas. An example would be asking someone what they did on the weekend. That question could lead to finding out how many kids they have, what religion they practice, if they are married, and more.

To help the hiring managers understand, I go over what Title VII states are protected areas. There are ways to ask certain questions to get the details you are looking for without violating Title VII protection that states areas such as age, religion, personal/family, nationality, military, and sex.

As an example, suppose you are hiring for a position that needs to work on Sunday. You do not want to ask what religion they are, instead focus on what days of the week they are available for work. If you are curious if they have children, and have daycare lined up, rather than asking them those questions you would want to phrase it by providing them the work schedule and asking them if they would have any problems working those hours. By training your staff on these basics, you may avoid an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) discrimination claim steaming from your interview processes.

If you are interested in learning more about interviewing best practices, visit our website at for a free class on Interview Dos and Don’ts. While you are there, check out the other upcoming trainings and events.

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