What questions should we avoid asking during an interview ?

An interview is an opportunity for the employer and the potential employee to get to know each other. The employer seeks to find the attitude, skills and the signs of a great performer in the candidate. Similarly, the candidate tries to find out the expectation of the organization and the work culture in the company.

The interview usually involves the interviewer asking questions to the candidate on his qualifications, experience, expectation and skills. Well composed questions can be extremely useful in eliciting information from the candidates. However there are a few questions which can be counterproductive. These can cause mistrust and suspicion in the minds of the candidate. In certain cases, the questions can be illegal and can be used as proof of discrimination.

Some of the questions that should be avoided are:- 

- It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of national origin, race, gender etc. So do not probe too deep into these areas. You can be accused of discrimination. 

- Since discrimination on the basis of age is not legal. You cannot pointedly ask the candidate about his/her age. You can ask if she is over 18. You should not also ask about his/her date of birth. 

- If the candidate has a military background, you can make discreet enquiries about his life there. However, you cannot ask him if he had been given an honorable discharge. 

- You should not ask candidates about whether or not they intend to have children or about the size of their family. If you want to find whether their commitment to family will come in the way of performing at the job, you can ask them if they will be able to work overtime and travel. 

- You may not ask candidates about their health, their disabilities or medical history. If you want to check whether they will be physically capable of handling the demands of the job, you can ask questions relating to their endurance such whether they will be able to stand for long periods of time, lift weights or whether they will be able to travel, etc.

It can be seen that it is not necessary to ask needlessly intrusive questions. All information that is necessary to make the decision to select or reject a candidate can be obtained by carefully framed questions without infringing on the candidate’s privacy.

If you are the candidate who is appearing for the interview, it is not advisable to pointedly refuse to answer questions you may consider inappropriate. This may jeopardize your chances of getting the job. Rather, reply in a manner that addresses the concern of the employer. For instance, if you find that the interviewer probes too much about your family commitments, he is probably trying to find out whether you can work overtime or travel. In such situations, it is better to tell him that you would be willing to travel and work overtime instead of directly answering the question.