Questions You Should Never Ask a Candidate in an Interview

As you prepare to interview job candidates, you probably spend a considerable amount of time planning which questions to ask. As you should; after all, an interview is often the last step before your final hiring decision. However, it’s equally important to know which questions not to ask and which topics to avoid all together.

It’s natural, and positive, to build connections with job candidates. But be careful not to cross the fine line between showing interest in their lives and being discriminatory. You may mean nothing by an innocent question. But if you don’t hire someone afterwards, they could look back on it as discrimination. Here are some areas that should remain off limits:


Age discrimination for people over age 40 is illegal. In fact, the only age you need to know is whether a candidate is over 18 or 21, depending on the job.

  • Never ask a candidate’s age. Also, stay away from any questions that may imply this is what you’re asking, such as what year they graduated high school.

Number of Children

Pregnancy discrimination violates the law. To play it safe, avoid asking a candidate if they have or plan to have children, or how many.

  • Proper questions are those related to a person’s ability to do the job. For instance, you can say, “This position requires that you be on call some nights and weekends. Will that work for you?”

Health Insurance

By asking if a candidate needs health insurance, you may be prying into their marital status, the employment status of their spouse, or their financial independence.

  • If the job doesn’t offer health insurance and you want to make a person aware of this, then state it flat out during a phone or other preliminary screen. You might say, “The position doesn’t offer health insurance. Are you still interested in interviewing?”

National Origin

Never comment on or ask about a person’s accent or other traits that relate to their nationality.

  • If you’re hiring for a position that requires multilingual capabilities, you can ask “What languages do you speak” but not “What language do you speak at home?”


Unless you’re hiring for a faith-based organization, this question is verboten. You cannot discriminate on the basis of religion, unless it’s specifically pertinent to the job. For instance, you can require that a minister for a Lutheran church is Lutheran. But in most cases, this question is a no-go.

  • The only time religion is relevant in a secular interview is if a person needs an accommodation. In this case, it’s their responsibility to bring it up. Then, you can decide together if the accommodation is possible.


Even though you would never intentionally discriminate against someone with a disability, you don’t want to set yourself up for an accusation.

  • You can ask a candidate if they are capable of doing the job. If their disability requires an accommodation, they should bring it up to you.

As you develop your checklist of questions and other steps in your hiring process, a reliable staffing firm can ensure you take all the right steps – and none of the wrong ones. They also can assist with vetting and prescreening, to make your interviews as efficient and effective as possible. Contact PrideStaff Fresno today, to learn more.

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