Steer the interview back on track if applicant strays

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

You know that certain questions are off-limits in a job interview. Just one wrong query, say about a candidate's marital status or ethnicity, could run afoul of federal sex, age, race, religious, disability or national origin discrimination laws.

But what do you do when a candidate volunteers such personal information? It's too late to pretend you didn't hear it. So follow the following scripts to pull the conversation back to appropriate topics in a nondiscriminatory manner:

Applicant announces she's pregnant and has child care concerns. Don't ask the applicant's due date. Focus on her ability to perform the job. Shift gears and move on by specifying and repeating the job requirements. Then you can ask, "Will you be able to meet these requirements?"

Applicant discusses his union activities or favorite church. Jump in and interrupt in a firm but polite tone, saying "I have to ask that you stick to answering my questions about the job." To discover whether religious obligations would interfere with an applicant's ability to work on Saturdays or Sundays, simply ask if there's any reason the applicant would be unable to work the weekend hours the job requires.

Applicant says he used to live in another country. Rather than asking if he is a U.S. citizen, ask if he has legal right to work in this country. (If you ask this question of one applicant, you should ask all applicants.) Steer clear of further inquiry into his national origin.

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