Illegal Interview Questions

Many employers have unknowingly put themselves in messy situations by asking illegal interview questions. Don’t let ignorance cost you a visit to court. The key to avoiding illegal interview questions is not to ask anything that can be considered discriminatory. Questions pertaining to race, marital status, age, ethnicity, religion and disability are off limits.

1.) Are you a US citizen?- ( Instead ask, Are you a US citizen or are legally authorized to work in the US?)

2.) Are you single?

3.) What is your religion?

4.)How old are you?- (Instead ask, Are you over 18?)

5.) Do you rent or own your own house? ( Employers would often ask this question to measure stability but it discriminates against minorities who tend to rent.)

6.)Do you have kids?

7.)Do you have any disabilities?

8.)Were you honorably discharged from the military? – Illegal in some states
9.) Are you a member of the National Guard or Reserves?

10.)Can you get a babysitter?

11.)How tall are you?

12.)How much do you weigh?

13.)How many days were you sick last year?( Instead ask, how many days you missed?)

14.)Did you ever file a worker’s compensation claim?

15.)Where did you grow up?- can be considered discriminatory

16.)Do your family members have jobs?

17.)Are you gay?

Checking References

This is your chance to find out the truth behind your potential employee. Checking references will give you valuable insight from the people who know and worked with your potential employee. Be sure to have consent (permission) from your potential employee before calling their references. If they refuse to give you consent, this should be a warning sign.

Don’t be surprised that a majority of references will give good recommendations or else your candidate wouldn’t give you permission to contact them. References will often give good recommendations just out of fear of being taken to court. They may be the candidates’ friends who are told to exaggerate and praise the candidate. Here are some tips to uncover the truth when checking references.

What to Ask?

1)Ask specific questions– When checking references instead of asking “Was Anabell a bad employee?” ask “What qualities in Anabell needs improvement?” Many past employers would be quick to say No, Anabel was not a bad employee to the first question. However with the second question they are less defensive and more likely to point out her bad qualities.

2)Pay attention to the answers given by the reference– If it sounds as if they are not giving you the whole truth, keep digging. For example if you ask, “Did Anabel have a problem with tardiness?” If the reference avoids answering the question and instead replies, “ Anabel was a good employee, she tried her best.” The reference is obviously avoiding the negative truth. Be aware if the reference keeps praising certain qualities while avoiding others.

3)Some references will try to cover bad qualities with good ones. For example if a reference states that an employee is very independent and works well on his/ her own, they may be saying that the employee does not work well with others. Don’t assume this is the case. Further question the reference.

Reference Questions

Confirm job position and dates of employment

How well did the candidate work with others?

What were (Candidate’s Name) Positive qualities?

What were (Candidate’s Name) Negative qualities?

Why is the candidate no longer working with you?

Would you recommend this candidate?

Is there anything else you would like to tell me?

Recruiting Employees

What you should know before recruiting candidates

There are various methods of recruiting employees and having them apply for your job positions. When recruiting candidates for a job keep in mind that there are laws that protect job seekers from solicitation and discrimination. Laws prohibit discriminating employees or potential employees based on their race, religion, national origin, sex and color.

Methods of Recruiting

Place an advertisement in the local paper– This is a traditionally accepted method of advertising a job opening and recruiting employees.

Job Sites– Posting a job description on Job Sites such as is becoming an increasingly popular method of recruiting employees. These job sites also feature current resumes of people searching for jobs. Job sites include:

College Placement Centers-There are plenty of College students who have recently graduated and are in search of a job to start off thier career. College placement centers are an ideal place to find these potential employees.

Place a “Help Wanted” sign on your store– simple but effective and free! It would be a good idea to have applications for applicants to fill out so you can later compare information.

Trade Journals– When you are looking for a professional employee with specific skills, trade journals are a great way to advertise job openings.

Friends and Family– Many experts will advise against hiring friends and family. In my opinion friends and family should be treated as any other potential employee with no favoritism. They should be subject to the same hiring process as other potential employees to ensure they have the qualifications for the job. Working with friends or family can be a disadvantage if they feel they can slack off since they know you. On the other hand it can be an advantage because since they know you they may be more motivated to help you succeed.

Referrals– You can get referals from friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances. Your bound to know somebody who needs a job.

Employment agencies– I would leave this as a last option since they charge a fee for their services. An employee that you would be paying $9 an hour can become $15 an hour from an employment agency.

Interviewing Employees

It is a good idea to be prepared before interviewing employees / interviewing candidates. Once you have shortened your list of potential employees to only the most qualified candidates you are ready to schedule interviews. You can choose to schedule all the interviews in one day but make sure to leave enough space between interviews. If you have an office or business location, that is the ideal place to hold the interviews. If you work from home you can hold the interviews in a public place such as a coffee shop.

An interview is your opportunity to evaluate and get to know a potential employee. A resume can only tell you about a person’s education background and experience but interviewing employee candidates will allow you to explore a candidates’ motivation, ability to get along with others, and personal values. The interview methods used by small businesses may vary. Below is the standard “one on one” interview where an employer interviews one candidate.

Interview Process

1.)Review the candidate’s resume/ application– if you notice something suspicious in the resume write down questions such as, Why weren’t you working in this period of time? Why did you never work more than 3 months in your past jobs?

2.)Have a list of questions prepared to ask your potential employee. Have access to a paper and pen to write down notes about each candidate.

3.)Welcome the candidate-(Handshake) Introduce yourself, let him/her introduce them self.

4.)Brief the candidate– Tell the candidate an overview about your business and about the job description which includes the job duties and responsibilities.

5.)Ask Questions– Ask the questions you have prepared. Write down notes. Don’t try to over-control the interview let the candidate speak freely.

6.)Answer Questions– Ask the candidate if he/she has any questions for you.

7.)Close the Interview– When the interview is complete thank the candidate for coming. Let them know that you will be conducting more interviews and that you will contact them if you decide they are best candidate for the position.

8.)Review-After all the interviews are complete review notes and call references. You can also conduct background checks if you feel its necessary but be sure to have your potential employee sign a background check permission form.

How to Hire Employees

How to hire employees. Hiring employees is a natural step in growing your small business. As your small business grows there comes a point when the work becomes too much for you to handle on your own. Many small business owners confuse the need of organization for the need of more help. Make sure this is not the case for you. Hiring employees can help you focus on expanding your small business while providing a fresh new perspective but they also come with disadvantages. Getting insurance, extra paperwork and extra taxes are a couple of factors you are subject to when hiring employees. You will also have to deal with situations such as employee theft, tardiness, firing employees and motivating employees. However it also has advantages as it can free some of your valuable time and allow you to do the things you like to do.

How to Hire Employees Steps

Step #1 Writing Job Descriptions

Before hiring employees you need to have a clear understanding of the position that needs to be filled. Therefore the first step in the hiring process is writing a job description. A job description is a statement detailing the job duties and responsibilities. After developing the job description you can then determine how much education and experience an employee should have to efficiently work in this position. You should then find out the salary range of other employees in similar job positions. This will help you determine how much to pay your employee. Keep in mind you can not pay below minimum wage. Be sure you are able to afford an employee before you hire one.

Step #2 Recruiting employees

When recruiting candidates your goal is to attract a large quantity of qualified individuals to apply for your job position. You can do this through various recruiting methods.

Step #3 Screen Candidates

Before conducting any interviews you should first screen your potential employees to ensure you only interview the qualified candidates. Many people who do not have the necessary qualifications for the position will apply for the job so screening applicants can save you lots of time and energy.

You can screen potential employees by the following methods:

  • Review their resumes – You can ask potential employees to email or mail their resume to you.
  • Short phone interviews – You can screen potential candidates by conducting short phone interviews to inquire about their education history and past job experience.
  • Applications-You can also screen potential employees through applications. In your application be sure to include contact information, education background, employment history, and references. Be sure to have a section that asks for the candidate’s permission to contact past employers.


Step #4 Interviewing Employees

After you have shortened your list to the most qualified candidates you are ready to schedule interviews. Don’t settle for a good candidate, your employee should be GREAT. Your employee should have the necessary qualifications. When conducting interviews be sure to avoid illegal interview questions.

Step #5 Checking References

Checking your candidate’s references is your opportunity to get first hand information about your candidate and their past work experiences. Be wearing when conducting reference checks as references may lie or embellish the truth.

Step #6 Making the Hire

So you have finally decided on a new addition to your business. Congratulations! Now you can call the lucky candidate and tell him/her the good news. As a courtesy you can choose to send an email to the candidates who didn’t make the cut. You can include statements such as “We appreciate you taking the time to apply for our job position” and “We wish you the best of luck in the future.”

Step #7 Completing legal paperwork

As an employer it is your responsibilty to ensure you meet all legal requirements. You must obtain an Employer’s Identification Number(EIN) and you are reqired to have worker’s compensation insurance. Be aware that you will be responsible for making social security tax payments for your employees. Read’s guide to hiring employees for more information.