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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A List of Interview No No's

This post is for HR or hiring managers.  If you and/or the selection committee are not prepared, you can easily destroy an interview by asking the wrong questions or acting inappropriately.  Please read this document carefully and avoid potential incidents.

1.     Stay Away From Inappropriate Humor

Jokes, anecdotes, and witticisms are the most readily misunderstood means of communication and should generally be avoided in interviews.  Any jokes on sensitive matters (gender, age, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) are rarely acceptable in an interview process.  There are exceptions to the rules as many Aboriginal organizations may provide preference to Aboriginal candidates or religious organizations may provide preference to candidates of the same religious belief; ensure you double check with your legal counsel before assuming questions of the above nature are acceptable to ask.

2.     Be Careful Asking About Age

The only times it is appropriate to ask about age is when it’s a requirement of job duty, or to determine if a work permit is required.  Do not even inquire about the year someone graduated high school; it can be interpreted as an attempt to determine age.  If you need to ask about age, phrase your question as follows: “Are you at least 18 years of age?”

3.     Do Not Ask About Religion or Sexual Orientation

Although some candidates may volunteer religious or sexual orientated information in an interview, you still need to be careful not to discriminate.  Ask questions that are relevant to work experience or qualifications.  Also avoid questions about religious holiday celebrations.

4.     Do Not Discriminate Based on Health or Disabilities

You may not ask about smoking, health related questions, or disabilities in an interview.

5.     Be Careful Asking About Race, National Origin, or Gender

It is usually not appropriate to ask questions in regards to race, color, national origin, or gender.  However, some minority run and focused organizations may be an exception to this rule.  If you are unsure if you are exempt from discriminating based on race or national origin, please consult an attorney for advice before the interview.

6.     Avoid Inquiries About Marital Status, Children, Personal Life, and Pregnancy

You may not ask question on these topics.  These kinds of questions could be tempting to ak if you are interviewing for a position requiring travel or long hours; however, you can only explain travel and/or work requirements and confirm that the requirements are acceptable.  If you believe you have an exception to this rule, consult an attorney prior to interviews.

7.     Keep Cellular Phones Off or Completely Silent

One of the most distracting and disrespectful things an interviewer can do is let their cellular phone interrupt an interview process this includes: letting your phone ring or vibrate, reading or responding to texts or emails, or answering the phone.  You are most likely a very important person in your organization but you owe it to the candidate who is already overwhelmingly stressed, your full attention.  Designate a person to screen your phone calls with permission to only interrupt you should there be an emergency and turn your phone off or to a setting of complete silence.  Remember that at one time cell phones didn’t exist.

8.     Don’t Do Anything You Would Not Appreciate if You Were the Candidate

Treat others as you would like to be treated.  Remember that a job interview is one of the top 10 life stresses for the average person and that they are interviewing you and your organization at the same time.

A Question You Can Ask - The Secret Weapon


"Is there anything in your personal or professional life which may impact your performance and that, as perspective employers, we should know about?"


This is your best bet for asking candidates to reveal personal information about themselves without being discriminating.  This question is 100% valid because it is tied directly to performance and does not ask about any one specific "off-limit" topic.

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