Important Interview Questions You Can't Ask

Certain questions are "no-nos" when interviewing prospective employees. Spa and salon owners need to know what questions to avoid to prevent legal problems.

Are you a U.S. citizen? What you really want to know is, can the applicant legally work in the United States, so the question to ask is, "Are you authorized to work in the United States?"

What is your native language? This sounds like a quick way to judge fluency in a language, but it can appear discriminatory, so ask (assuming fluency is important to the job), "What languages do you read, speak, or write fluently?"

Which religion do you practice? You might ask this to discern if the candidate will be available to work nights and weekends, but asking about religion is clearly discriminatory, says HR The same problem exists in asking, "What holidays do you observe?" Instead, ask the more relevant question, "Can you work according to our established work schedule, which is ...?"

What is your age? That's another question that just slips off the lips but one that can set up an age discrimination issue down the road. However, you may ask, "Are you legally old enough to work in this job?"

Do you have any disabilities that would interfere with doing this job? The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking about disabilities (and also asking questions that would tend to elicit information about a disability, including inquiries about history of sick leave, hospitalization, and so on). Questions should be limited to asking whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime? Questions about arrests should be avoided, because an arrest does not evidence any wrongdoing. You may ask about convictions; however, it is generally wise to note that a conviction is not necessarily a bar to employment, unless you have a business necessity justification for turning down applicants. For example, a retail employer could reject applicants who had theft convictions on their records.

Can you get child care easily so that you can travel on short notice? Again, don't ask about children and child care. You can get the answer to this question by simply describing your requirements: "The person in this position often has to travel to outlying facilities with only a day's notice. Can you meet that requirement?"

Tell me about the organizations you belong to. Again, this appears to be an innocent question, but it's not. The question tends to elicit information about the applicant's religious, racial, or ethnic affiliation, and that's information you don't want, and legally can't have. A better question: "Tell me about any memberships or organizations that contribute to or affect your ability to do the job."