Interview Questions NOT to Ask for Employers

The interview process can be stressful for everyone involved. It is the interviewer’s responsibility to bring on the best new team member, as this will significantly impact the success of a business in today’s competitive environment. That pressure often causes the interviewer to ask the wrong interview questions.

It is illegal to ask specific interview questions that are associated with discrimination, such as relating to a candidate’s:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Country of origin
  • Birthplace
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Pregnancy
  • Salary history (in some states)

This can be tricky if a rapport is developed with the candidate during the interview. When getting to know someone, it is only natural to ask about these off-limits topics that can lead to serious issues in an interview. It is best to stick to only what is needed to make an educated hiring decision.


Say a candidate is interviewed with a unique accent or said they have worked in other countries, a natural response could be something like “where are you from?” However, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on national origin, so it could be alledged discrimination if that is asked. Also, asking if English is a candidate’s first language is not permitted. Only if it’s relevant to a position, asking what other languages they are able to read, speak or write fluently is allowed. Inquiring upon a candidate’s living situation is also illegal, but asking how long they have lived at their current address is fine.


Employers may not discriminate regarding gender or marital status, so asking about maiden names is not legal but asking if they ever worked under another name is lawful.  An employer’s goal should never be to find out if a candidate is or ever was married.


Asking “how old are you?” or “when was your first job?” may sound innocent, but the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects those 40 and older from age discrimination. With an age requirement for the position, asking “are you over the age of 18?” or whatever the minimum age requirement is permitted.

Family Planning

Another question that can get an employer into trouble is asking about children and family since these types of questions fuel workplace gender imbalance to avoid hiring women who may someday take maternity leave or need time off to care for their children. It is illegal to ask a candidate if they are planning a family if they are pregnant or about their childcare arrangements as that information is not allowed to be used for hiring decisions.


Disabilities are protected. For instance, the questions “Have you ever filed a workers compensation claim?” or “Do you have a disability?” are illegal hiring questions. If the position at question has physical ability requirements and knowing the candidate’s capability to perform the requirements is needed, asking if the applicant can perform the job functions with or without reasonable accommodations is allowed. Asking about height, weight, or any details regarding any physical or mental limitations should also be refrained from, nor what activities they partake in during their free time.

Salary History

Gender-based pay discrimination is illegal but still goes on because it is difficult to prove. It is best to avoid questions such as “What is your current salary?” and determine the pay for the position upfront. The salary range should be clarified during the interview so that women and minorities with a history of being paid less are not hit with the perpetuating cycle. With all of these risk exposures, explain to our clients the importance of staffing liability insurance.

About World Wide Specialty Programs

For the last 50 years, World Wide Specialty Programs has dedicated itself to providing the optimal products and solutions for the staffing industry. As the only insurance firm to be an ASA commercial liability partner, we are committed to that partnership and committed to using our knowledge of the industry to provide staffing firms with the best possible coverage. For more information about Staffing Professional Liability Insurance or any other coverage, we have available to protect your staffing business, give us a call at (877) 256-0468 to speak with one of our representatives.