HR TIP: Managers don’t know some interview questions are illegal

HR Tips

HR Tip: Career Builder survey reveals one-third of hiring managers do not know interview questions that are illegal to ask; also identifies unusual interview questions to see what makes a candidate tick

More than 2,100 hiring and human resource managers across industries participated in the nationwide survey, commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted online by Harris Poll from November 4 to December 2, 2014.

The following questions are illegal for hiring managers to ask; yet, when asked if they knew if these questions were illegal, at least one third of employers indicated they didn’t know:

  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What is your political affiliation?
  • What is your race, color or ethnicity?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children or plan to?
  • Are you in debt?
  • Do you social drink or smoke?

Often the legality of the question is in how the interviewer asks it. For example, asking candidates about their long-term goals is okay, but asking when they plan to retire is not.

The survey also included some of the most unusual – but still legal – interview questions hiring managers say they have asked job candidates, and what these questions really assess. Here are a few examples:

“How would you wrangle a herd of cats?” A hiring manager might ask a question like this to gain insight into a candidate’s ability to organize, lead and motivate others.

“What superpower would you like to have?” How candidates answer this question can provide insight into how they view their own strengths and weaknesses.

“If you were trapped in a blender, what would you do to get out?” This question might assess a candidate’s creativity, ability to think on his or her feet and problem-solving skills.

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