What should we tell manager who wants to ask inappropriate interview questions?

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Q. We have a manager who is really concerned about “fit” when we interview for his group. He wants to ask questions about hobbies, whether the candidate has a family and how that will affect the candidate’s ability to be at work. I’ve tried to explain that, due to discrimination laws, we should only ask questions based upon the job and its requirements, but he ignores me. What can I do?

A. You are absolutely right that employers should only ask questions related to the job.  Questions that aren’t job-related can get employers into hot water, especially when they could illicit protected-class information that an employer is not allowed to consider when hiring. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Train managers on hiring protocols, including impermissible interview questions.
  2. Meet with hiring managers before interviews to go over questions they want to ask. Ideally, every candidate should get the same questions. If managers want to test cultural fit, they should ask behavioral interview questions that get at work styles, attitude, conflict aversion and critical thinking skills that are job-related.
  3. What if a manager spontaneously asks an improper question? You could try to quickly interject another question so the candidate does not answer or tell the candidate that he or she doesn’t need to answer your colleague’s question. You can tell the manager ahead of time that this is what you will do, and that alone may deter inappropriate questions.

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Megan L. Anderson is an attorney with Gray Plant Mooty’s Employment Law Practice Group in Minneapolis. Concentrating her practice in employment law counseling and litigation, she regularly advises employers and provides training on a variety of employment law issues. Contact her at megan.anderson@gpmlaw.com or (612) 632-3004.

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