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Are Your Interview Questions in Compliance?

Sometimes, despite the best intentions, interview questions can enter into gray areas around Equal Employment Laws. Here's how to avoid that.
Kwantek Team

Interviewing and screening job applicants carries a high amount of legal risk for any industry. In high-turnover industries such as commercial cleaning or contract security, this risk is exacerbated.

Not only are a higher percentage of applicants among protected classes, high-turnover industries hire at large volumes. This creates a double-whammy of added risk, and you should be evaluating your hiring process with great caution.

We’ve all seen the OSHA posters that spell out these rights of protected classes, and most organizations have no issue and happily abide by these laws.

But sometimes, our lines of questioning in the pre-hire process (however innocent the intent) can enter into gray areas around these laws, placing your company at risk of tedious and expensive litigation.

Below is a chart from our go-to HR partners Affinity HR, detailing what NOT to ask and the acceptable alternative questions that provide an acceptable way of phrasing the question and receiving the same information.


What not to ask Acceptable Alternatives
- How old are you?
- How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?
- What is the date of your high school graduation?

- Are you over 18 years of age?
- What are your long term career goals?

- When or where were you, your parents, your spouse born?
- What is your original or maiden name?
- What is your lineage, ancestry or national origin?

- Are you legal to work in the United States? (Do not require documentation until post-hire)
- What languages are you fluent to speak/read/write in?

- What is your religion or religious practices?
- What holidays do you observe?

What days are you available to work?
- Are there any days you cannot work?
- Are you able to work our required schedule?
- What is your race or ethnic background?
- Do you have a problem working with co-workers of a different race?
- In general, you should avoid any questions related to race. This includes asking about country of origin.

Health & Disability
- Do you smoke, drink, take drugs?
- Are you in good health?
- Do you have any disabilities?
Health & Disability
- Are you able to perform the physical duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation?

- What is your marital status?
- Do you have or intend to have children?
- What’s your gender or sexual identity?
- How do you feel about managing a man/woman?
- Are you able to work the required schedule for the job?
- Are you able to perform the duties of the job?

Military Status
- Are you still in active or reserve status?
- What were the dates of your service?
- Were you honorably discharged?
- Are you receiving a disability pension?
Military Status
- Are you a military veteran?
- What military skills and experience are you able to bring to this position?

Criminal Background
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you been convicted of a crime?
- Have you served time for a crime?
Criminal Background
- The job requires a security clearance – do you anticipate any problems obtaining a clearance?

- Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
- Do you own your own home?
- Do you own your own car?
- What is your credit rating?
- What is your social security number?
- Do you have access to reliable transportation?
- Do you anticipate being able to arrive at work on time?

- What clubs do you belong to?
- Do you belong to a labor union?
- What do you think about unions?

- Are you a member of any organizations that could be beneficial to your work in our industry? 


There are many ways to creatively ask questions to give yourself all the information you need about a prospective candidate. We highly recommend making sure all of your hiring managers have a vetted plan beforehand, and never enter an interview without written, pre-approved questions.

Not sure if your questions fall within the realm of acceptability? Contact us and let us know what questions you have. One of our HR experts will be happy to help!

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