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Many employers keep asking questions in job interviews that are either against the law or could be used to show discrimination, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The center surveyed more than 1,000 adults nationally about their experiences in job interviews.

“Among those who have ever been on at least one job interview, 51 percent say they have been asked at least one inappropriate or personal question. Most commonly, interviewees have been asked about their marital status or asked about their medical history or whether they have a disability,” according to the center’s summary.

Thirty-five percent say they were asked about their marital status, and another 35 percent were asked about their age. Twenty-one percent said they were asked about their medical history, 11 percent about having children and fewer than 1 in 10 were asked about their religious beliefs.  Six percent said they were asked sexually suggestive questions and/or were flirted with.

Protect yourself against hidden legal liabilities, Nov. 17


Even if a question is not against the law, it could be used as evidence of discrimination in a lawsuit against the business and/or the manager conducting the interview.

Attorney Michael A. Shadiack, Chair of the Employment Law Practice Group at Connell Foley LLP in Roseland, said a best practice for an employer is to make an outline of the interview questions ahead of time and use the same outline for all the interviews. (Shadiack will be one of four presenters at NJBIA’s Hidden Legal Liabilities for Employers seminar on November 17.)

The outline should be reviewed by human resources, upper management and/or employment counsel before the interviews are conducted to ensure the questions to be asked are legally appropriate, Shadiack said.

“You want to treat all candidates the same and evaluate their ability to perform the essential job requirements, which should be detailed in the applicable job description,” Shadiack explained. “To that end, the interviewer must know the essential job requirements and be intimately familiar with the job description in order to ask job-related questions.”

But whatever approach you take, make sure you stay focused on the applicant’s ability to perform essential job requirements, Shadiack said.