For employers, a job interview is just as critical of a point in time for your company as it is for the life of the individual that you’re interviewing. This is, after all, the potential point where a long, prosperous, and enjoyable professional relationship can trace its roots back to or not. So it’s vital to get as much information out of your interviewee in that short period of time as possible.
But on the other hand, there are a few questions that should never be asked, regardless of the circumstances, for any of a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons have something to do with discrimination- if you don’t hire somebody, and that somebody feels as though you asked a question that you used the answer to in order to discriminate against him or her, you and your company could be in big, big trouble.
Here are three questions (and variations thereof) that we recommend you steer clear of at all times.
“I love your accent, where are you from?”
Though such a question is almost always asked with the best of intentions in mind, the insinuations that could arise if the interviewer does not get the job are never good. In more benign cases, the interviewee may think that the interviewer simply didn’t know what he or she was doing- while some small talk can be a good way to break the ice, a quick look at the candidate’s resume can usually answer that question. But if your interviewee is in a particularly ornery mood as a result of not getting the job, or he or she took offense to the question, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit.
“How many kids do you have?”
In truth, it’s very easy for the small talk portion of an interview to include the children of both parties (particularly if the employer has pictures of his or her children sitting on a desk), but as the interviewer, it’s best to avoid broaching the subject. If the interviewee brings up the topic, so be it- the polite thing to do then is to reciprocate the question. But if you as the employer bring it up, it could send off all the wrong types of signals to the interviewee, up to and including the idea that you didn’t hire him or her because he or she has multiple children. And whatever you do, do not ask about the candidate’s potential plans to conceive additional children, because getting slapped with a pregnancy discrimination suit can land the company in some serious hot water.
“What church/synagogue/etc. do you attend?”
There are a few exceptions to this one, namely if you’re interviewing on behalf of a religious organization. Otherwise, though, if you don’t hire the candidate to whom you asked this question, the interviewee could decide that you discriminated against him or her due to his or her religion. It doesn’t matter if you were simply using that question as an avenue of small talk or not; what matters is if the person on the other end of it ultimately feels marginalized by it, and if so, your company probably won’t enjoy what happens next.