a recruiter not asking questions not to ask in an interview

HR Resources

Key Questions Not to Ask in an Interview

April 10, 2023

Reem Al-Tamimi

Reem Al-Tamimi

Content Writer

Do you want to master the art of interviewing? Well, you’ve come to the right place! As a recruiter, asking the right questions can make all the difference in finding the perfect candidate for the job. But beware, some interview questions are like the sound of screeching metal and can make you cringe! That’s why it’s important to be aware of the questions not to ask in an interview.

In today’s world, diversity and inclusivity are more important than ever, and it’s crucial to steer clear of insensitive or inappropriate questions. Plus, you don’t want to be the recruiter who wastes their candidate’s time by asking questions they could have just Googled!

Come along with us on a journey to discover the interviewing dos and don’ts, such as the inappropriate questions to avoid. With our guidance, you’ll be able to steer clear of awkward situations and leave a positive impression on your candidates.

Get ready to become the ultimate interviewing superstar!

Hiring The Wrong People? You Might Be Asking The Wrong Set of Questions

Let’s picture this and put ourselves in the candidate’s shoes: you’re in the middle of an interview, and the recruiter asks you a question that makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s about your age, your religion, or even your financial status. Suddenly, you feel on edge and unsure of how to answer. This scenario may seem far-fetched, but unfortunately, it’s all too common.

Asking inappropriate questions during an interview can have serious consequences, not just for the candidate but for the employer as well. Not only can it harm the candidate’s chances of being hired, but it can also lead to legal trouble for the employer.

But let’s be honest. Avoiding inappropriate questions is easier said than done. As a recruiter, it’s important to strike a balance between getting to know the candidate and staying within legal boundaries.

So, what can you do? First and foremost, be aware of what questions not to ask in an interview – off-limits. It’s best not to ask about a candidate’s age, religion, or marital status. Instead, focus on questions directly related to the job and the candidate’s qualifications.

Remember, your goal is to find the best candidate for the job, and asking inappropriate questions will only hinder that process. By following proper interviewing techniques and avoiding discriminatory questions, you can create a fair and welcoming environment for all candidates and increase your chances of finding a good fit for the job.

A recruiter conducting a video interview.

Interviewing 101: Questions Not to Ask in an Interview as an Employer

There’s no single approach to fit everyone. However, some interview questions can be more harmful than helpful. As much as you may want to connect with your interviewees, it’s vital to remember that certain questions are taboo and may breach anti-discrimination laws

So, how can you master and conduct the interview process like a pro? One of the keys to success is knowing what not to ask in an interview. Keep reading to find out what questions not to ask in an interview and how to recruit the perfect candidate who aligns with your company culture and goals.

Steer Clear of Illegal Questions 

Do you want to ensure that you’re conducting a fair and legal interview? Then it’s crucial to avoid illegal questions that could land you in hot water. Avoid questions about a candidate’s personal characteristics, such as age, race, religion, marital status, or disability.  

Here are some examples of illegal questions not to ask in an interview. It’s not only inappropriate but also against the law to ask these questions, which violates Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws.

“What is your national origin?” Or “Where are you from?”

During an interview, you may encounter a candidate with a unique accent or someone who has worked in other countries. While your curiosity may lead you to ask where they are from, holding back the urge is crucial as it can be considered illegal. Asking about national origin could be discriminatory and put you at risk of being accused of discrimination. So, stick to job-related questions to conduct a fair and legal interview. 

“Are you currently married?”

When it comes to conducting a job interview, there are certain questions not allowed to ask. Questions related to a candidate’s family status fall under this category, as they are often irrelevant and can lead to discrimination against women. For example, asking, “Do you have children?” or “Do you plan to have children?” are off-limits. Similarly, even inquiring about marital status by asking if someone is single can be considered discriminatory. While it may seem like harmless small talk, remember that these personal questions won’t help you evaluate the candidate’s job performance.

a recruiter avoiding questions not to ask in an interview.

“How old are you?”

Asking about age may appear to be a harmless inquiry. However, if you have a minimum age threshold and wish to confirm that your candidate satisfies it, you can ask questions such as “Are you above the minimum age requirement, such as 18 years or older?” On the other hand, there are other questions not to ask in an interview, such as “How many years have you been employed?” or “What was the year of your high school graduation?”

“What religion do you follow?”

At times, such queries may have a well-intentioned motive. For example, to ask about a candidate’s availability to work on weekends or whether they require time off for religious observances. However, asking a candidate about their religion or whether they pray or attend church services is not permissible. Instead, you can ask them about their availability to work on specific days.  

“Do you have any health conditions?”

Remember, employers are not allowed to ask about an applicant’s health status, including any past surgeries, illnesses, or even pregnancy. Similarly, it is not allowed to inquire about the candidate’s height, weight, or any physical or mental limitations. Although some positions may require certain physical abilities or lifting, asking directly if a candidate is disabled is not permitted. Moreover, pregnancy is eligible for disability pay, so asking about a candidate’s pregnancy status is also not allowed.

Avoid Questions Unrelated to Job Requirements

During a job interview, it’s crucial to focus on relevant questions that relate to the job requirements. Asking questions that have nothing to do with the job can lead to discrimination and make the candidate feel uncomfortable. By avoiding irrelevant questions, interviewers can create a fair and unbiased hiring process and assess the candidate’s qualifications and ability to perform the job duties effectively.

Let’s explore some examples of irrelevant questions not to ask in an interview to the job requirements and why you should steer clear of them.

“What is your political affiliation or views?”

Asking about a candidate’s political affiliation or views during a job interview is irrelevant to their ability to perform job duties effectively. It may result in biased and discriminatory hiring practices as the interviewer could make assumptions based on political beliefs. Furthermore, it can infringe upon the candidate’s privacy rights and create an uncomfortable environment during the interview. Interviewers should instead focus on job-related questions that assess the candidate’s qualifications, experience, and ability to perform job duties effectively. By doing so, it promotes an unbiased hiring process that is solely based on the candidate’s qualifications.

A recruiter asking appropriate questions to a candidate

“What is your family background or ancestry?”

Asking a job candidate about their family background or ancestry can have negative implications during the hiring process. For example, it can violate the candidate’s privacy rights, as they have the right to keep certain aspects of their personal lives private. Moreover, asking about irrelevant personal information can lead to stereotyping. Interviewers may make assumptions based on stereotypes associated with the candidate’s ethnicity, race, or nationality. This can create bias and unfair treatment during the hiring process.

“Do you own a car or have reliable transportation?”

Interviewers can only ask about a candidate’s ownership of a car if it’s related to the job duties. Sometimes having a car might be a requirement for the job, like for delivery drivers or field technicians. In these cases, having reliable transportation directly affects job performance. However, interviewers should be careful to ensure the question is relevant to the job and avoid discrimination. For office-based roles, where transportation is not essential, asking about transportation ownership may not be appropriate.

Don’t Fall for These Low-Quality Interview Questions

Preparing for a job interview is nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about inappropriate or irrelevant questions. Don’t let low-quality interview questions trip you up. Stay ahead of the game by knowing what questions not to ask in an interview. 

Let’s take a look at some examples of things not to ask in a job interview to ensure that the interviews are free from cliche questions. 

“What is your biggest weakness?”

The age-old interview question, “What is your biggest weakness?” is often seen as cliche and lacking value. Most candidates have rehearsed responses that don’t reveal or turn genuine weaknesses into strengths. A better approach is to ask about a challenging project the candidate has worked on and how they overcame obstacles. This provides insight into their reflection and self-awareness, which can be more valuable to hiring managers than a canned response. 

Could you please the gap in your resume?

Employers may worry about gaps in a candidate’s resume, but it’s not a good idea to ask about them during an interview. Gaps in employment can happen for many reasons, such as taking care of a loved one, traveling, or excluding irrelevant work experience. Rather than focusing on the gaps, interviewers should ask questions that clarify the information they do have without making the candidate uncomfortable.

Interview Questions Worth Asking

A happy recruiter asking found thoughtful questions to ask in an interview.

As a recruiter, you hold the key to finding the perfect candidate for the job. But to unlock that potential, you need to ask the right questions during the interview process. Don’t settle for surface-level inquiries. Instead, dive deeper with thoughtful and engaging questions that will reveal the true qualifications, experience, and cultural fit of your candidates. 

With the right approach, you can unlock the potential of your candidates and find the perfect fit for your company. Here are some interview questions worth asking in an interview: 

  • Can you give me a glimpse of the projects I’ll work on?
  • What’s the biggest challenge your team is facing, and can I be part of the solution?
  • Which three key skills do I need to succeed in this role?
  • How will this position contribute to the organization’s growth?
  • What’s your preferred communication style with your team? Do you hold meetings often or rely on other means like email or status reports?

Let’s wrap a bow on it!

Are you gearing up for a round of job interviews and want to nail them like a pro? Well, here’s a golden tip: knowing what questions not to ask in an interview is just as important as knowing what to ask! Inappropriate questions can make candidates feel uncomfortable, discriminated against, or even violate their privacy. As an interviewer, it’s crucial to be respectful, professional, and knowledgeable about the questions to avoid. So, gear up, stay informed, and conduct interviews like a pro by steering clear of these common interview pitfalls!

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Reem Al-Tamimi

Reem Al-Tamimi

Turn top talent to employees fast

Hire, assess, onboard and manage top talent for every job. See how Elevatus streamlines everything; from acquire to new hire.

Request a demo