6 Illegal Interview Questions to Avoid

Hiring and specifically interviewing candidates is a task most managers and business owners often dread. As you prepare to interview, you probably create a list of questions you want to ask that person. It’s equally important to know what questions you shouldn’t be asking a potential employee, to avoid legal trouble.

What makes an interview question illegal?

What makes an interview question illegal is its potential for discrimination based on the candidate’s answer. Federal laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination against a job applicant or employee based on a variety of characteristics, including race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, political views and family status. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws, which are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

There is no specific law that states which questions are illegal to ask. It is in asking certain questions with discriminatory intentions that makes questions illegal and best to avoid to prevent any claims of discrimination. Here are 6 interview questions to avoid and why:

Here are 6 common illegal interview questions to avoid and why:

  1. How old are you? Though it is legal to request a candidate’s date of birth to run a pre-employment background check for example, directly asking candidates their age or when they graduated high school can be troublesome if a candidate feels that is the reason they were not hired for the position.
  2. Where are you from? or Is English your first language? You can ask a candidate if they are eligible to work in the United States, but asking a candidate specifically where they’re from could be grounds for national origin discrimination.
  3. Are you married? It may seem like a simple topic to initiate small talk, but asking a candidate if they’re married or planning to have children, may open the door for pregnancy or sexual orientation discrimination claims.
  4. Do you have any health conditions? Rather than asking about a candidate’s health, ask questions that are directly related to the demands of the position, such as “Are you able to lift 50lbs several times throughout the day?”
  5. Have you ever been arrested? It’s not illegal to ask about a candidate’s criminal history, but you cannot ask if a candidate has been arrested because the fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he or she engaged in criminal conduct. An individual’s arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to make a negative employment decision.
  6. Are you in debt? You may choose to run pre-employment credit history checks as part of your hiring process, however, you cannot base your employment decision on that information without giving the candidate a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the report and a copy of the candidate’s rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Remember, this list is only a sampling of the most common interview questions to avoid.

If you have questions about interview questions, contact our HR team who can help you determine if your interviewing process is on the right track.

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Trouble recruiting good employees? Pay up!

One of the biggest challenges employers face is recruiting good employees to round out their teams. In South Florida where we operate, the marketplace for talent is beyond cut throat competitive. There are reasons for this of course, we have a large immigrant population where there is always someone willing to “work for less”. We also have a large percentage of jobs in the low-paying tourist and service industries. Couple these factors with a Republican dominated Legislature which works mostly for the state’s business community and you get a market with an overabundance of low-paying jobs and a healthy supply of labor to sustain it.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment data, for the year 2015 show the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area had the lowest median pay among the country’s 50 largest employment centers, according to an analysis by FloridaPolitics.com. Miami’s pay rates take the second-lowest spot.

According to the BLS, the average median pay, annualized [meaning workers are assumed to be working full time, all year, at the rates of pay reported to the feds] for all occupations was $31,990 in Miami. Sometimes, in order for you to acquire the best talent available and take your company to the next level- you simply have to pay up for it. And yes, if you pay more than your competitors or above market average for some key positions in your company you will get better results.

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Job Applicant or Malware in Disguise?

I don’t know about you, but I miss the good old days…back when an HR Recruiter’s biggest IT concern was making sure a new hire signed and abided by the Acceptable Use Policy! With so much cybercrime happening elsewhere, it was only a matter of time before the work of HR Professionals became a target. Last month Check Point Software Technologies shared its discovery of a ransomware campaign designed to separate HR professionals from their cash!

Before we continue, let’s go over the basics. Malware is generally defined as a software program that is intended to damage or disable a computer or system. Ransomware, a type of malware, is designed to block access to a system until a sum of money is paid. That’s right… it can hold your files hostage!

Check Point reports that the ransomware attack usually begins with a brief email from someone posing as a job applicant. The email contains two attachments. The first is a PDF containing a cover letter, which has no malicious content and is designed to “lull the victim into a false sense of security.” The second is an Excel file with malicious content that, when opened, asks the victim to enable content which allows macros to run.

When the unsuspecting recruiter clicks “enable content,” the code inside the macro executes and begins “the process of encrypting the files, denying the victim access to his or her files.” After all files are encrypted the victim gets a ransom note before the computer reboots and starts encrypting the hard disk.

In the end, the victim will be unable to access any files unless a ransom of approximately $1,000 is paid to an untraceable online account.

The research done by Check Point so far has all been overseas, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t on its way.

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure” certainly applies here. While we can’t offer any fool proof remedies, here are a few basics that will help:  

  1. Make sure your computer security/anti-virus/anti-malware software is up to date.
  2. Don’t open anything suspicious from unknown senders.
  3. Don’t enable macros on MS Office documents.
  4. Consider uploading attachments from unknown sources to a cloud-based server instead of opening them directly from your computer.
  5. Revisit your backup process to ensure files are backed up frequently.
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Employee Recruitment Scams (Yes, This is a Thing!)

If there are any trust issues in the employee recruitment process, they’re usually from the perspective of the recruiter. Is this candidate embellishing their resume? Providing false information? Leaving out an arrest record? As representatives of our employers to those who want a job, our trustworthiness is rarely called into question, especially with those just entering the workforce straight out of college. Until now. Thanks to some industrious scammers who have figured out a way to make money from folks looking for a job, the almost blind-faith exhibited by most job seekers may be a thing of the past.

Scam The FBI issued an alert late last week announcing that employment scams targeting college students who are seeking employment are prevalent. According to the FBI notice the scammers advertise phony job opportunities on employment websites aimed at students and recent college grads or send emails to this population recruiting them for fictitious positions. These particular employment “opportunities,” however, lead to a financial loss for the job seekers.

Here’s how the scam works: Scammers post online job advertisements soliciting candidates for administrative positions. Once a position is accepted, the new “employee” will be told that they have to purchase work related materials (software, hardware, etc) in order to begin the onboarding/training process. They are told that they employer will pay for these materials but that they must be ordered from the approved vendor. The new “employee” receives a check that they deposit into their personal bank account. They are often told to take a few hundred dollars as their first pay but to use the rest to purchase the materials from the employer approved vendor. Most often these purchases are done electronically. So the new “employee” deposits the check and uses the money before the bank confirms that the check is fraudulent.

Consequently, the new “employee’s” bank account may be closed due to fraudulent activity (not to mention the report to law enforcement and/or the credit bureau). They are also responsible for reimbursing the bank the amount of the counterfeit check. The true icing on the cake, however, is that they have most likely given the fake employer all of their private, personal information, making them very susceptible to identity theft.

If you’re thinking there’s no connection between this and your organization, think again. Sometimes the recruitment postings and emails actually appear to be from companies who are both reputable and familiar. Unless the candidate looks closely at the domain name and double checks to be sure it is the same domain used by the company, any organization can be used as a disguise.

Remember our earlier post about employer branding? This type of scam makes it even more important to establish an employer brand – even if you’re a small business! In addition to safeguarding your reputation as an employer and serving as a value proposition to employees, it may also be what you need to establish trust with new recruits!

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