Home » Don’t Ask these Illegal Questions in an Interview

Don’t Ask these Illegal Questions in an Interview

I remember the first year I was in charge of hiring seasonal employees for Toy House. I was ill-prepared. I had done no research into how to interview a candidate. Heck, I had only sat through three job interviews in my life on the other side of the desk. I don’t think I asked any illegal questions. I don’t think I asked any insightful questions either.

Of the ten people I hired that first year, all on a yet-to-be-honed gut instinct, I found a couple good employees, six warm bodies that took up space, and two people we were better off letting go before we got busy. Not that great of a track record.

Hiring and the Potter's Wheel Book Cover
A Business Parable that will help you create a masterpiece of a staff.

Things changed a few years down the road when I had the epiphany that would lead to the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. The aha moment was when I realized I needed my candidates to show me who they were, not tell me what they might be.

I started asking questions that began with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when you …”

Actions speak louder than words. Ask your candidates to tell you what they have done, not what they think or believe, and you will get a more accurate description of who they are and what they will do for you.

Now that you know what to ask, Proven.com—a website for finding and hiring new employees—has put out the definitive list of illegal questions you cannot ask. These are illegal. You can get in trouble for asking them. Download the infographic and keep it right next to your list of “Tell me …” questions.

We all know it is illegal to ask, “What medications do you take?” but did you know you cannot ask, “How many kids do you have?” Being a toy store owner I probably made that mistake in an interview or two. I wish I had this list before that first round of interviews. I owed it to the candidates to be better prepared.

Now you have this info so that you can be better prepared. Believe me, it will help.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Many of the books I read on hiring told me to “hire for experience.” As you already know, not all “retail experience” is the same. When you hire for character traits and core values, you’ll consistently find candidates that fit better with you and your store.