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Job seekers are often the ones sweating to ask the right questions, but hiring managers also need to mind their Ps and Qs. In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 20 percent of hiring managers said they have unknowingly asked an illegal interview question. And while intentions are harmless, a risk for legal action remains.

More than 2,100 hiring and human resource managers across industries participated in the nationwide survey and it was determined that the following are interview questions that should be eschewed:

  • 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 smoke or drink socially?

Often the legality of the question is in how the interviewer asks it. For example, a number of hiring managers didn’t know the legality of asking the following:

When do you plan to retire? Asking candidates what their long-term goals are is okay, but asking when they plan to retire is off the table.

Where do you live? Asking candidates where they live could be interpreted as a way to discriminate based on their location and is therefore illegal. Asking them if they are willing to relocate, however, is okay.

What was the nature of your military discharge? Asking why a military veteran was discharged is illegal; however asking what type of education, training or work experience received while in the military is not.

Are you a U.S. citizen? While it’s okay to ask if a candidate is legally eligible for employment in the U.S., it’s not okay to ask about citizenship or national origin.

So, how do you ensure staying out of hot water? Learn how to ask the right questions. Research an interview solution that structures and standardizes the hiring process to eliminate the bias and confusion that not only leads to bad hires, but to potential legal action too.

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