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Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Interview Questions

Here at Iona College, we know the Recruitment and Interview Process has many steps, but it is important to follow the process accordingly so we can continue to hire the most suitable candidates to fill our open positions and become a part of this thriving environment.

As a participant in the Interview Process, it is important that you become familiar with the appropriate vs. inappropriate questions that can be asked of candidates for employment purposes. The objective of the Interview Process is to determine whether a candidate is the proper fit for an available position. However, based on various Federal, State & City Laws, the interviewer should avoid asking questions or base an evaluation of a candidate on criteria that is discriminatory in nature.

The Interview Process provides you with an opportunity to obtain in-depth information about a candidate’s skills, employment background, etc. for this purpose. Due to the fact that many discrimination complaints and lawsuits filed against employers stem from the Interviewing Process, this guide has been created to aid you in conducting lawful employment interviews.

Please remember that when interviewing candidates, all questions should be directly related to their knowledge, skills & abilities, as it relates to the available position.

Age

  • Inappropriate: How old are you? What year were you born? When did you graduate from High School?
  • Appropriate:
    • Before hiring, asking if you are over the minimum age for the hours or working conditions.
    • After hiring, verifying same with a birth certificate or other ID

Citizenship

  • Inappropriate: Are you a citizen of the U.S.? Are your parents or spouse citizens of the U.S.? On what dates did you, your parents, or spouse acquire U.S. Citizenship?
  • Appropriate: This information is collected on the employment application. It is not necessary to discuss these matters in an interview.

Credit Record

  • Inappropriate: What is your credit score? Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
  • Appropriate: To inquire as to a candidate’s credit or garnishment record, if bonding is a job requirement.

Criminal Record

  • Inappropriate: Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever spent a night in jail?
  • Appropriate:
    • While this information is collected on the employment application, no application for employment may be denied on the basis of the candidate’s having been convicted of one or more criminal offenses, or by reason of a lack of “good moral character” based upon one or more criminal convictions, unless:
      • There is a direct relationship between the criminal offense and the employment sought; or
      • Employing the individual would involve an unreasonable risk to property, or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

Disability

  • Inappropriate: Do you have any disabilities? What is your medical history?
    How does your condition affect your abilities?
  • Appropriate: Can you perform the specific duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodations?

Education

  • Inappropriate: To ask a candidate for years of school attendance or dates of graduation.
  • Appropriate: To inquire into a candidate’s academic, vocational or professional education and the schools attended.

Family/Parental Status

  • Inappropriate:
    • Questions regarding marital status, pregnancy, future child bearing plans, ability to reproduce and number of age and children.
    • Questions concerning spouse, or spouse's employment, salary, arrangements, or dependents.
    • What kind of child care arrangements have you made?
    • How will your spouse feel about the amount of time you will be traveling if you get this job?
  • Appropriate:
    • Whether an applicant can meet specified work scheduled or has activities or commitments that may prevent him or her from meeting attendance requirements.
    • The position hours are 9-5, is there any reason you cannot start at 9 a.m.?
    • Can you work overtime?

Gender

  • Inappropriate: It is not permissible to ask a candidate how he or she would feel working for or with men or women.
  • Appropriate: N/A

Language

  • Inappropriate: To inquire as to a candidate’s native tongue. To inquire as to how a candidate acquired the ability to read, write or speak a foreign language.
  • Appropriate: To inquire whether a candidate speaks or writes a language fluently, when it is required to successfully perform the duties of the position sought.

Licenses

  • Inappropriate: N/A
  • Appropriate: To inquire whether a candidate has a valid professional or driver’s license, if the license is required for the position sought, and to require that a candidate produce such license.

Marital Status/Name

  • Inappropriate: Are you married, divorced, separated, engaged, widowed, etc.? Do you go by Miss, Ms. or Mrs.? Is this your maiden or married name? What is the name of your relative/spouse/children? Do you live with your parents?
  • Appropriate: After hiring, questions about a change of name, use of an assumed name, or nickname, in order to verify the qualifications stated by the candidate.

Military

  • Inappropriate: What type or condition is your military discharge? Can you supply your discharge papers? What is your experience in other than U.S. armed forces?
  • Appropriate: Describe the relevant work experience as it relates to this position that you acquired from U.S. armed forces.

Miscellaneous

  • Inappropriate: Any inquiry that is not job-related or necessary for determining an applicant’s eligibility for employment.
  • Appropriate: Notice to the applicant that any misstatement or omissions of material facts in his/her application may result in Iona College not proceeding with a job offer or may be cause for dismissal.

National Origin

  • Inappropriate: What is your nationality? Where were you born? Where are your parents from? What is your heritage? What is your mother tongue? How did you acquire the ability to speak, read or write a foreign language? How did you acquire familiarity with a foreign country? What language is spoken in your home?
  • Appropriate: Verifying legal U.S. residence or work visa status.
    • Only if required/preferred for role: Do you speak, read or write (insert language) language(s) fluently?

Organizations

  • Inappropriate: To request a candidate to list all clubs, organizations, societies and lodges to which he or she belongs.
  • Appropriate: To ask a candidate if he or she is a member of any organization that the candidate believes is relevant to his/her ability to perform the job.

Photograph

  • Inappropriate:
    • State that it is a requirement that applicant affix a photo to his/her application.
    • Request applicant, at his/her option, to submit a photograph.
    • Requirement of a photo after interview but before hiring.
  • Appropriate: Statement that photograph may be required after employment.

Physical Condition

  • Inappropriate:
    • Do you have any physical disabilities?
    • Questions on a general medical condition.
    • Any inquiry that is not job-related or necessary for determining an applicant’s eligibility for employment.
  • Appropriate:
    • Describe the physical requirements for the position, then ask, if they are able to perform them as described.
    • Statement by employer that offers may be made contingent upon or by passing a physical examination.

Race or Skin Color

  • Inappropriate: What race are you? Are you a member of a minority group? Any question related to complexion, color of the skin, or other questions directly or indirectly indicating race or color.
  • Appropriate: N/A

References

  • Inappropriate: To ask for a reference from a member of clergy.
  • Appropriate: To ask for the names of people willing to provide professional references for the candidate.

Religion or Creed

  • Inappropriate: What is your religious affiliation? Which religious holidays will you be taking off from work?
  • Appropriate: To state the requirements of the job in terms of work schedule, such as the days of the week, workday and overtime, and ask the candidate whether he or she is able to meet such requirements.

Residence

  • Inappropriate: Do you own or rent your home? Do you live in town? With whom do you live?
    • Questions regarding a foreign address that may indicate national origin.
    • Questions regarding names and the relationship to the person(s) with whom he or she resides.
  • Appropriate: Inquiries about the address to facilitate contact with the applicant.

Sex/Sexual Orientation

  • Inappropriate: Questions regarding sexual orientation
  • Appropriate: N/A

Travel/Mobility/Ability to Get to Work

  • Inappropriate: Inquiries as to a candidate’s mobility or ability to travel if they are not related to successful job performance. Such inquiries may tend to discriminate against older workers, people with disabilities and women.
  • Appropriate: If the job requires travel or the ability to work at different locations, you may state the job requirements and ask the candidate if he or she is able to meet such requirements.