This page provides important legal guidelines for inquires that are permissible during the interview and recruitment phase as well as those that must be avoided to comply with anti-discrimination laws and to reduce legal liability. Any inquiry should be avoided that, although not specifically listed herein, is designed to elicit information as to any applicant’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, or genetic information, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Inquiries should only be made in order to elicit information about the candidates’ abilities to do the essential functions of the position. Please contact the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.513.3148 with any questions.
Remember, all questions must be job-related and should be decided upon by the search committee prior to the interview process. Questions pertaining to a candidate’s name, age, arrest and conviction record, education, and military service are a part of the initial application process and/or the pre-hiring phase and do not warrant additional questioning during the interview process.
Please read through these carefully
For verification purposes, you can ask whether the applicant’s work or research records are under another name. This question should be asked to all individuals. There are many reasons why an individual may utilize a different such as individuals who go by a nickname at work for general name or national origin reasons, individuals who have changed their surname due to marital reasons, and individuals within the trans community who have transitioned between genders or who identify as a different name.
You cannot make any inquiry that would indicate an applicant’s lineage, ancestry, national origin, marital status, or descent. You cannot make any inquiry into the previous name of the applicant where it has been changed by court order or otherwise. You cannot ask if they prefer to be called Miss, Mrs., or Ms., or ask for her maiden name.
Arrest and Conviction
You may ask about convictions for previous crimes as they reasonably relate to a job. However, you should consult with the Office of General Counsel prior to asking these questions.
You cannot ask for the disclosure of arrests or ask questions that relate to an arrest. You may not look into the criminal background of a candidate without their expressed written consent.
Note: The search committee would not know about a candidate’s arrest or conviction record unless it was disclosed by the candidate.
You may require a credit check only as it relates to the job position and you should ask the selected candidate for consent prior to doing so. This would be conducted by Human Resources as part of the verification process.
You are not allowed to ask a job candidate if they own their home or if they have previously declared bankruptcy. You cannot ask a candidate if their wages have ever been garnished.
There are no permissible questions about a candidate’s physical features (weight, height, if they have an impairment, or for any non-job-related physical data).
There are no permissible questions about a candidate’s sexual orientation.
Race and Color
There are no questions that are permissible relating to race and/or color (no inquires that would indicate race or color, including the color of eyes, hair, skin, or other feature).
Marital and Family Status/Pregnancy
There are no questions that you can ask at the pre-employment stage.
You cannot ask about their marital status. You cannot ask about the number and/or age of children, who cares for them, and/or about plans to have children. You cannot make any inquiry concerning pregnancy.
Allowed – but must be asked of all candidates, regardless of sex
• If there is any reason an applicant cannot work evenings or weekends if required?
• What hours and days can the applicant work?
• Are there specific times that you cannot work?
• Will you be able to fulfill the specific job responsibilities such as traveling?
• When are you due/expecting?
Age (40 and over)
You may ask if a candidate is able to complete the essential job functions of the position.
You cannot ask applicants to state their age or date of birth nor any questions that would identify persons who are 40 and over.
• Are you eligible to work?
• Do you currently have or are you eligible to have a CDL license?
• How old are you?
• What year did you graduate from high school?
You may ask if an individual can perform the essential functions of a job with or without an accommodation. You may test candidates on completing the essential job functions (if all candidates are evaluated in an equitable manner).
You cannot ask a candidate about any disability including the nature or severity of a disability, how the candidate became disabled, any other history related to a disability, any treatment that the candidate may be using, or any accommodation a candidate may need.
• Will you be able to fulfill the attendance requirements of the job?
• Do you have any disabilities?
• How did you become disabled?
• How will you get to work?
• What kind of treatment do you need for your illness?
• What kind of accommodations will you need?
• Have you ever been hospitalized, formerly used or been addicted to illegal drugs or alcohol, treated for mental illness, or filed a worker’s compensation claim?
• How many sick days you took the previous year?
You may ask about languages spoken, travel, or cultural experiences as they relate to the job requirements.
You cannot ask about the birthplace of the applicant (Parents, grandparents, or spouse) nor if the applicant has an accent.
• As the lead of a study abroad trip to China, what is your fluency level with Chinese?
• Is that a French accent that I hear?
• Your last name is Rodriguez, are you from Mexico?
After the offer has been made, you may ask for actual proof of citizenship or work authorization. This is done through the course of the human resource processes and not by the search committee.
You cannot ask about a candidate’s citizenship/immigration status or proof of such status.
• Will you be able to produce evidence that you are eligible for employment in the United States? (this should be asked of all applicants if asked).
• Do you have a “green card?”
• When did you become a citizen?
• Are either your spouse or parents U.S.-born or naturalized citizens?
Sex and Gender
You cannot make any inquiry that would indicate sex or actual or perceived gender identity.
• There are no questions that are permissible unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BOFQ) exists.
• Do you prefer to be called Miss, Mrs., or Ms., or ask for her maiden name.
You can ask if an individual can perform the essential functions of a job with or without an accommodation.
You cannot ask for recommendations or references from religious officials or make any inquiry that would indicate religion or creed, such as asking about religious observances.
• Will you be able to fulfill the attendance requirements of the job?
• Are you willing to work any particular religious holiday?
• What kind of accommodations will you need or if they will need accommodations
You may ask a candidate questions concerning any job-related experience and education they may have received from the U.S. Armed Services, but only if it relates to a particular job.
You cannot ask a candidate if they are a member of the military or if they have a reserves service record; any military service they may have performed outside of the U.S., and are also not allowed to ask a candidate about if and how they were discharged.
• For the position of Motor Pool Mechanic, can you tell me more about your experience as a Navy Aviation Mechanic and some transferable skills that may be relevant?
• Example: What branch of the U.S. military did you serve with?
Retaliation and Worker’s Compensation
You may not ask a candidate if they have brought or filed a grievance against a former employer. You may not ask a candidate if they have ever sustained any previous work injuries or filed for workers’ compensation.
• There are no questions that you may ask concerning if a candidate has been previously retaliated against or if they have filed for workers’ compensation.
• Have you ever brought charges or filed a grievance against a former employer?
• Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation?
• Have you had any prior work injuries?
Address/Length of Residence
You may ask a candidate if their contact information, including their phone number and email address is up to date, however, this information should have been gathered during the initial application process.
You cannot ask about where a candidate has previously resided as it may indicate their protected status of national origin, and whether or not they own or rent their current residency. You are also not permitted to ask about names or the relationships of people with whom the applicant lives.
• Prior to releasing any CV or cover letter during the interview process, you must get the applicant’s written permission and redact contact information.
• Before your current residence, where have you previously lived?
You may ask a candidate what languages they can speak and write in fluently, but only if it is required of the job.
You cannot ask a candidate what their native language is or how they acquired the ability to read, write, or speak a foreign language.
• In this role, you will lead a study abroad trip to China. Are you fluent in Mandarin?
• I can hear that English isn’t your first language, what is your native language?
You are allowed to ask about a candidate’s membership in any organization in which the candidate considers relevant to their ability to perform the job.
You cannot ask a candidate to list any and all clubs, societies, and lodges to which they belong.
• Are you a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers?
• Are you a Free Mason?
• Are you a member of Delta Sigma Theta?