Departmental Interviewing Guide: Examples of Acceptable/Discriminatory Questions

See also questions to avoid during the interview.

Interview questions should be focused on obtaining information necessary to assess the skills and qualifications of the candidate and/or the candidate's ability to perform the essential functions of the position. Interviewers must avoid questions that request information that is illegal or has a discriminatory impact. The following are examples of questions that are acceptable or should be avoided.

Questions about Name that Should be Avoided

· The fact of a change of name or the original name of an applicant whose name has been legally changed.

· Maiden name of a married woman.

· Name of a spouse.

Questions about Name that are Acceptable

· Whether or not the applicant ever worked under another name or was the applicant educated under another name (Allowable only when the data are needed to verify the applicant's qualifications).

· Examples:
a) Have you ever worked for your present company under any other name?
b) Is there any information relative to a change of name that would help us in conducting a reference check?

Questions about Birthplace and Residence that Should be Avoided

· Birthplace of applicant.

· Birthplace of applicant's parents.

· Own home, rent, board, or live with parents.

· Citizenship.

· Address of applicant's spouse and children who are dependents.

Question about Birthplace and Residence that is Acceptable

· Inquiry about address sufficient to facilitate contact with applicant.

Questions about Creed/Religion that Should be Avoided

· Inquiry concerning religious preference, denomination, or affiliations of applicant.

· Church, parish, pastor, or religious holidays observed by applicant.

· Examples of discriminatory questions:
a) What is your religion?
b) What religious holidays do you observe?
c) Which church do you attend?
d) What do you do on Sundays? From your resume, I noticed that you are involved in your church. Would it be a problem to work on Sundays?

Question about Creed/Religion that is Acceptable

· Unions or professional organizations, as long as that information is not used to violate the National Labor Relations Act or other federal statutes.

· Example of an acceptable question:
a) This job requires people to work on weekends - can you meet this requirement? (Employers have the obligation, according to EEOC guidelines, to make "reasonable accommodations" for employees whose religious convictions may conflict with scheduling requirements of the business.)

Questions about Race or Color that Should be Avoided

· Applicant's race.

· Color of applicant's skin, eyes, hair, distinguishing physical characteristics, scars, markings.

Questions about Photographs that Should be Avoided

· Photographs with application.

· Photographs after interview, but before hiring.

· Any request for submission of photograph at any time prior to employment (You may request a photograph after employment for identification purposes).

Questions about Age that Should be Avoided

· Date of birth or age of applicant, except when such information is needed to:

· Maintain apprenticeship requirements based upon a reasonable minimum age.

· Satisfy the provisions of either state or federal minimum age statutes.

· Avoid interference with the operation of the terms and conditions and administration of any bona fide retirement, pension, employee benefit or insurance plan or program.

· Verify that applicant is above the minimum legal adult age (18 years) but without asking for a birth certificate.

· Age specifications, limitations or implications in a newspaper advertisement that might bar workers under or over a certain age.

· Obtain driver's license number (contains driver's age) to meet the qualifications of position being sought.

· Examples of discriminatory questions:
a) What is your age or date of birth?
b) How old are you?
c) Are you between the ages of 18-24, 25-34, etc.?
d) Will you mind being the oldest one working here?

Question about Age that is Acceptable

· Applicant may be asked if he/she is over the minimum legal working age.

· Example:
a) If hired, can you offer proof that you are at least 18 years of age?

Questions about Language that Should be Avoided

· Applicant's mother tongue.

· Language commonly used by applicant at home.

· How the applicant acquired the ability to read, write, or speak a foreign language.

· Examples of discriminatory questions:
a) Was English your first language?
b) What language did you speak as a child?

Question about Language that is Acceptable

· Languages applicant speaks fluently (only if job-related).

Questions about Relatives that Should be Avoided

· Name and/or address of any relative of applicant.

· Names of applicant's spouse and dependent children.

· Names of persons with whom applicant resides.

Questions about Relatives that are Acceptable

· Name and address of person to be notified in case of accident or emergency.

· Inquiry into whether applicant has relatives employed by the University of Florida.

· Example:
a) Do you have any relatives already employed by UF/ this college/this department? (To be used for purpose of discovering any nepotism issues.)

Questions about National Origin and Ancestry that Should be Avoided

· Applicant's lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, birthplace, parentage, or nationality.

· Nationality of applicant's parents or spouse.

· Examples of discriminatory questions:
a) Are you a United States citizen?
b) Of what country are you a citizen?
c) Where were you born? Where were your parents born?
d) What nationality are you?
e) Was English your first language?
f) What language did you speak as a child?

Questions about Citizenship that are Acceptable

· Whether applicant can be lawfully employed in this country because of visa or immigration status.

· Whether applicant can provide proof of legal right to work in the United States after being hired.

· Examples:
a) Can you show proof of your eligibility to work in the United States?
b) If you are not a United States citizen, do you have the legal right to remain/work here?

Questions about Military Experience that Should be Avoided

· Applicant's military experience in other than the United States Armed Forces.

· National Guard or Reserve Units of applicant.

· Draft classification or other eligibility for military service.

· Applicant's whereabouts in 1941-45, 1950-53 or 1964-73.

Questions about Military Experience that are Acceptable

· Military experience of applicant in Armed Forces only when used for employment history.

· Whether applicant has received any notice to respond for duty in the Armed Forces.

Question about References that Should be Avoided

· The name of applicant's pastor or religious leader.

Questions about References that are Acceptable

· Names of persons willing to provide professional and/or character reference for applicant.

· Name and address of person to be notified in case of accident or emergency.

Questions about Sex and Marital Status that Should be Avoided

· Sex or marital status or any questions that would be used to determine same.

· Any inquiry as to whether an applicant is married, single, divorced, separated, engaged, widowed, etc.

· Number of dependents, number of children.

· Spouse's occupation.

· Questions posed of one gender and not the other.

· Examples of Discriminatory Questions:
a) Are you married or single?
b) Do you wish to be addressed as Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?
c) What is your maiden name?
d) With whom do you live?
e) Do you share an apartment with anyone?
f) What is your spouse's name and/or occupation?
g) Are you divorced?
Questions about Pregnancy that Should be Avoided:

· Any inquiry related to pregnancy, medical history concerning pregnancy, and related matters.

· Examples of discriminatory questions:
a) Are you pregnant or do you plan to be?
b) Are you planning to have children right away?

Questions about Arrest and Conviction that Should be Avoided

· The number and kinds of arrest of an applicant

· Example of a discriminatory question:
a) Have you ever been arrested?

Questions about Arrest and Conviction that are Acceptable

· Convictions that bear a relationship to the job and have not been expunged or sealed by a court.

· Example:
a) Have you ever been convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor or felony? (You must state that a conviction will be considered only as it relates to performing the essential functions of the job being sought.)

Question about Height and Weight that Should be Avoided

· Any inquiry into height or weight of applicant, unless justified by business necessity. (Inquiries pertaining to physical appearance can be made if they are bona fide occupational qualifications.)

Questions about Disabilities that Should be Avoided

· Any general inquiry as to whether applicant has any physical or mental disability. This includes an inquiry about the nature, severity, or extent of a disability. (Refer to Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities.)

· Examples of discriminatory questions:
a) Are you disabled?
b) Have you ever been treated for any of the following diseases?
c) What is the nature or severity of your disability?
d) What kind of problems does being disabled cause you? Do you think you have the physical strength for the job?

Questions about Disabilities that are Acceptable

· Does applicant have any disabilities that would prevent him or her from satisfactorily performing the job? (Must be accompanied by job descriptions and mention of reasonable accommodation.)

· Example:
a) Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation? (Show/Read the applicant the position description so he/she can give an informed answer.)

Miscellaneous Questions that are Discriminatory

· Do you have any children? How many children do you have?

· What are your childcare arrangements?

· Do you have a car?

· Have your wages ever been garnished?

· Do you have a good credit record? Do you have any overdue bills?

· Have you ever declared bankruptcy?

· Have you ever filed for workers' compensation? Have you had any prior work injuries?

· Do you smoke?

Miscellaneous Questions that are Acceptable

· This job requires heavy lifting. Can you lift/move fifty pounds? (This is legal provided that this is in fact a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

· Are there specific times that you cannot work or adhere to this schedule?

· What professional or trade groups do you belong to that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this job?

Our smoking policy is such…. Can you adhere to it? (Be aware of any state laws that relate to smoking such as the Florida Clean Indoor Act).