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Questions you shouldn’t ask in an interview

comzeal/iStock/GettyImagesPlus Job interview, Hiring concept
Some questions are illegal and some you should just simply avoid.

You might think, that when you sit down with a candidate to work on your farm, nothing is off limits. However, there are many questions that are actually illegal to ask and some that you should just steer clear from to ensure that you make a good impression toward your potential new employee(s).

Questions That Are Illegal

Age: You cannot directly ask a candidate their age or even ask them to infer it. This includes asking graduation dates and retirement plans. You may, however, ask a candidate if they are 18 or older.

Health & Disability: This one is tough, because disability may be blatantly obvious, but it is still discrimination. You cannot ask anyone questions regarding their health history, their mental health, whether they drink, or anything related to their health.

Home Life: Asking a candidate about their marriage status and whether or not they have children can get you into hot water (this includes pregnancy and plans for starting a family). If you are worried about whether or not they can perform their job due to their family life, you may ask about whether or not they are able to relocate, if they are able to travel, and if they can be at work on time.

Nationality: Anything that could lead to racial or ethnic bias is off limits. You cannot ask someone where they were born or how long they have lived in your country. You may, however, ask if they are authorized to work in your country and if they can speak a particular language.

Religion: Another off-limits area. Sometimes interviewers might be concerned that spiritual lives may interfere with working hours. Ask about what days, holidays, and weekends your candidate is able to work, but don’t specifically ask what their religious background is or what holidays they observe.

Questions that may be legal but are still off-limits

Just because a question isn’t necessarily illegal, it still might make a candidate uncomfortable and deter them from wanting to work with you. They may even be illegal in your state.

Legal History: Asking a candidate about their criminal record or arrest history is a no-no. This can be seen as discriminatory, even if legal, and it most definitely will make the interview an unpleasant experience for them.

Dress Code: Telling your candidates the dress code is not the problem here. The problem is asking someone to spend a certain level of money to dress a certain way. If a candidate does not show up in brand-name clothing but still look nice, there should be no further discussion. Asking someone to change their spending habits for their job is unfair and inappropriate.

Inappropriate Jokes: Don’t share a joking question that would make your candidate uncomfortable. Examples might include, “Would you go out for a drink with us in the evenings?” or “Have you got good life insurance?” Don’t ask a female candidate if they are single (which is technically illegal) or to “do a twirl” if she is wearing a skirt. This may sound absurd, but it’s happened.

Focus your questions around the job itself, what your candidate can bring to it, and you should not have problems. 

Penning is Creative Marketing Specialist at Look for her advice at our Managing Talent blog at

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.


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