Web Exclusive: 13 interview questions you cannot ask


April 19, 2017

Whether you’re a pest management professional seeking work or a pest management company looking to fill a position, the interview is a critical step in the hiring process. But some questions are off limits.

Kylie Luff

Kylie Luff

Kylie Luff, senior vice president and managing partner of human resources management firm Seay Management Consultants, discussed the hiring process at a presentation during the National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA’s) 2017 Legislative Day event. She said asking the wrong questions while conducting a job interview could violate federal and state laws, putting you and your company at risk for legal action and fines.

When it’s time to fill a position, set reasonable requirements, she stressed. A job listing could be viewed as discriminatory, depending on your education or physical requirements. Stick with the essential responsibilities and skills needed to succeed.

During a job interview, you cannot ask — or should not answer — questions related to the following:

  1. Age
  2. Race, ethnicity or color
  3. Marital status
  4. Family status, pregnancy or childbirth
  5. Religion (although you can ask which days a candidate is available to work)
  6. Sexual orientation
  7. Country of national origin or birthplace
  8. Citizenship (although you can ask if the candidate is legally eligible to work in the United States)
  9. Smoking (although you can disclose your company is located in a smoke-free building)
  10. Drinking or illegal drugs (although you can disclose your company is a drug-free workplace and conducts random drug tests)
  11. Disabilities (although you can ask if the candidate can perform the essential functions of the job)
  12. Criminal record (although you can ask if the candidate was ever convicted of a crime, particularly if it is a question on the job application)
  13. Workers’ compensation claims

If you plan to conduct a background check, you must ask the job candidate to sign an authorization form.

Luff suggested checking the references of all applicants. “No job offer should be made until references are checked,” she said.

If you’re not sure what you can and cannot ask — or answer — during the interview process, seek expert advice. Luff’s company offers consulting services to members of the NPMA.


Leave A Comment

  1. Steve Wade says:

    Thanks for an interesting article. It sometimes feels like we can’t ask the difficult questions that we’d really like to get a real feel for the person we’re interviewing.

    Here’s a question that a friend of mine who runs a retail business likes to ask:
    “We are not looking for perfect people but we are looking for honest people. It’s not uncommon for people to take small things without permission and sometimes forget to give them back. so what would you estimate to be the total value of things you may have taken without permission and forgotten to return over the years?”

    He calls it his “killer question” and because it’s a bit unexpected he say’s he has had some really interesting and shockingly ‘honest’ answers. On many occasions it has been the answer to this question that has ruled out a candidate.

    I’m not an HR expert so you might want to consult with Kylie or your own HR specialist if you are thinking of using a variant of the killer questions.

    good luck