Hiring managers sometimes ask the “darndest questions” during candidate interviews. Unfortunately many of these interview questions often put the employer at significant risk for discrimination claims by rejected or disgruntled candidates.

The basic rule in determining the acceptability of any applicant questions is, can the employer demonstrate a job-related reason for asking the question? In asking an applicant questions, the interviewer must decide whether or not the information is really necessary.

Problem areas are those discriminatory questions that inquire about the applicant’s gender, race, age, national origin, or religion. Other problems arise when female applicants are asked different questions than male applicants, or married applicants are asked different questions than unmarried applicants, or young adults are asked different questions than more mature workers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its Pre-employment Inquiry Guidelines in 1981 and it’s Enforcement Guidance: Pre-employment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations in 1995. These address the issue of interview questions which, if used in making a selection decision, have a discriminatory effect by screening out minority applicants, female candidates, and older applicants and individuals with a disability, etc., for the particular job in question.

Click here to receive a list of interview questions you can and cannot ask. Although federal EEO laws do not specifically prohibit any pre-employment questions, the EEOC does look with “extreme disfavor” on questions about age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, gender or veteran status. Many state fair employment laws do expressly forbid certain types of questions. All interview questions should be reviewed by labor and employment counsel before use.