How startups can avoid asking illegal interview questions

| Mar 7, 2020 | Employment Litigation |

Entrepreneurs understand the time, resources and sweat equity it takes to start a business. Of course, one of the biggest obstacles they have to overcome is finding, hiring and maintaining the right people.

Startup owners often have a hard time with this. That’s because many top performers in the market tend to go to more established companies with good pay, benefits and security.

Despite this, many startup owners are still determined to find valuable employees, but can lack experience when it comes to hiring. Unfortunately, this could result in managers asking illegal interview questions.

This can be dangerous for businesses, especially those that are just starting to grow. At the same time, owners need to make sure they’re hiring the candidates they want for a profitable return on investment.

What types of questions are considered illegal?

Startups want to find candidates that will have the time and energy to dedicate their resources to the business. However, it’s unlawful to ask candidates about their:

  • Marital, family or pregnancy status
  • Age
  • Citizenship
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Race or national identity

How can I still ask essential questions without crossing the line?

While the legalities surrounding some interview questions can hinder a manager’s ability to screen candidates, there are ways they can still get the information they need without breaking the law. Here are a few examples:

  • Personal obligations: Managers want to know that the people they hire will have the time to commit to the company. But they can’t ask if a candidate is married or has a family. However, employers can ask them about any outside commitments that may interfere with their job.
  • Work availability: Working late nights or weekends may be the norm at some startups. Because of this, managers may want to know if a candidate can work late nights or weekends. As some people like to attend religious services over the weekend, this may tempt some hiring managers to ask about faith practices. However, this is illegal. Luckily, they can still ask candidates about their night and weekend availability without bringing up religion.
  • Performance ability: Most businesses want attentive, high-performing employees that have the appropriate skills and qualifications. But it’s illegal for employers to ask any interview questions regarding a person’s age or disability, even if it could directly impact their performance. However, they can ask about their past work experience, certificates and skillsets that make them qualified for the position and check references from previous jobs.

Finding the right candidates can be a challenge

Building and maintaining a startup is hard work. Those who have questions about legal hiring practices may want the assistance of an employment law attorney. They can help review screening tactics to make sure startups are complying with federal and state policies.