Advice Given for Job Interviews
When you’re hiring a new employee, you want to be sure the
prospective candidate will be a good fit with your existing
organization. But be careful: There are many questions you’re not
allowed to ask job candidates under existing laws. Commenting on
these areas, in fact, may open you up to an eventual lawsuit.
It’s well known, of course, that you cannot ask or comment on
race or color. Nor should you ask or comment about sexual
orientation or gender. You also should not ask or comment about the
applicant’s ancestry or his national origin or about that of his or
Be aware that interviewing guidelines may vary by state.
That said, what follows are some interviewing issues
kitchen/bath firm owners should be aware of:
You can ask what languages the applicant reads or speaks
fluently, but you cannot ask, “What is your native language?” or
“How did you learn English [or Spanish]?”
You can ask the applicant if he or she is 18 or older, and ask
the applicant’s age if it is less than 18. But you cannot ask, “How
old are you?”
You cannot ask about marital status. Questions such as “Are you
single?” “Are you divorced?” “What does your husband [or wife]
“Will you want time off for your honeymoon?” are all out of
Do not ask about birth control, or about family planning, such
as asking a female job applicant, “Are you and your husband
planning to have children?” You cannot ask who should be contacted
in case of emergency until after the
person is hired.
You can ask what the person’s current address is, however, you
cannot ask how long he or she has lived there. You can ask if the
applicant has ever been convicted of a crime, but you cannot ask if
he or she has been arrested.
You can ask about the applicant’s military experience in the
U.S. armed forces or the National Guard. You can ask if he or she
received an honorable discharge. You cannot ask about other
military experience, or if there was a discharge other than
You can ask about relevant membership in organizations or
societies. For example, if the person is a Certified Kitchen
Designer (CKD) or Certified Bathroom Designer (CBD), it is
permissible to ask about that. But you cannot ask an applicant for
a list of all societies and organizations he or she belongs to.
You can ask if the applicant is a citizen, and if not, if the
applicant has a legal right to remain in the U.S. You can ask if he
or she intends to become a citizen or intends to remain
permanently. But you cannot ask non-citizens what country they’re
citizens of. You can’t ask naturalized citizens when they became
naturalized, or whether their parents or spouses are also
naturalized. And, you may not require that applicants produce proof
If the job duties do not require driving, you cannot ask if the
applicant has a driver’s license. However, if the job does, you
You cannot ask, “How many days were you out sick at your last job?”
You cannot ask, “Have you ever had mental health problems?”
You cannot ask about disabilities. You can ask if the applicant
can satisfy certain physical requirements for the job, such as the
ability to lift a cabinet or the ability to climb a ladder, but
only where those requirements are necessary for the job. You can
ask the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would perform these
job functions. If a disability is apparent, or voluntarily
disclosed, you can ask if the person needs reasonable accommodation
for a job. For example, you can ask a person in a wheelchair if he
needs a wider aisle in the office, or a lower desk. But you cannot
ask about that person’s physical condition (“What put you in that
You can ask about illegal drug use, but not prescription drug
use. You can ask about current illegal drug use, but not about past
You can ask if the applicant drinks alcohol, or whether the
applicant has ever been arrested for driving under the influence.
You cannot ask how much the applicant drinks or whether the
applicant is an alcoholic or has been treated for alcoholism.
Some states may allow you to give applicants drug tests; other
states forbid it.
You can require job applicants to take job skill tests as long
as there is a legitimate business reason for the test. For example,
you can require applicants to take physical agility tests only if
there is a legitimate business reason for the test. You must be
able to show the abilities tested accurately reflect an applicant’s
ability to successfully perform the job. And, the tests must be
administered fairly; in other words, you cannot single out female
applicants and test them, but not male applicants.
Two other issues to be aware of:
1. Even if the job applicant brings up a forbidden topic, that
does not “open the door” for you to ask questions about it.
2. Many of the same guidelines apply when you give references for a
former employee’s job. You cannot give out information about age,
sex, race, national origin or disabilities. You cannot give out