Ask This, Not That – Legal Questions To Know

by Bluewater Advisory

March 28, 2016


bluewater_advisory_sykesville_interview2As any hiring manager can likely attest, the laws regarding what you can and cannot ask a prospective candidate can be difficult to understand. Avoiding age, religion and sexual orientation is obvious, but other areas are hazier.

In a format that mirrors the “Eat this, Not that” bestselling book,HiringSite produced an easy-to-understand “Ask this, Not that” that hiring managers can start using immediately.

Here are our favorite recommendations from the HiringSite’s clever list to keep you out of legal trouble:

Ask this: What is your current address and phone number? or Do you have any alternative locations where you can be reached?

Not that: How long have you lived here? This one alludes to a candidate’s citizenship. Stay away.

Ask this: Have you ever been convicted of “x” [something that is substantially related to the job]?

Not that: Have you ever been arrested? Questions about arrests or pending charges for jobs that are NOT substantially related to the particular job are off-limits.

Ask this…What are your long-term career goals?

Not that… How much longer do you plan to work before you retire? While you may not want to hire an older worker who will retire in a few years, you can’t dismiss an applicant for this reason.

Ask this…Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel?

Not that…Do you have children? or Can you get a babysitter on short notice for overtime or travel? You might be concerned that family obligations will get in the way of work, but you can’t ask or make assumptions about family situations. Cut to the chase by asking directly about the candidate’s availability.

Ask this… Are you over the age of 18?

Not that…How old are you? or When did you graduate from college? If you know a candidate’s age, you could find yourself facing discrimination charges at some point. Your only concern should be as to whether the candidate is legally old enough to work for your organization.

Your hiring managers and anyone else within your firm who interviews prospective employees should understand the importance of how they frame certain questions. At a very minimum, they need to understand what questions to steer clear of entirely. We hope that this article can help you and your managers navigate the legal waters of interviewing.