Illegal Interview Questions

Kelly Simants is here to share her smarts today.  Before starting Sweet Pea Events and partnering on Sage Wedding Pros, Kelly worked for Starbucks as a Director of Human Resources for their Supply Chain Operations, as well as Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a Human Resources Analyst.  She is a wealth of knowledge in the human resources field and we launched The People Plan so that she could share her expertise with the wedding industry.

In my days as Human Resources Director at Starbucks I shared the credo with the company that people are more important than the coffee.  It’s the reason that Starbucks is named One of the Best Companies to Work For by Fortune Magazine, year after year.  As HR Director I had to ensure that we did everything we could for the people of Starbucks.  So, this makes me a little bit of a nerd when it comes to hiring, training, and managing… and all the legal and ethical requirements that come along with that.

Did you know that there are certain questions and topics that you can’t cover when you interview a potential hire?

The “EEOC” – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – is the federal body that enforces laws relating to employment discrimination.  If you are hiring contractors, part-time, or full-time employees, the EEOC is a great place to learn about legalities as an employer related interviewing candidates.

In a nutshell, interview questions must be job-related. There are some topics you cannot legally discuss and some questions you cannot ask in the interview process. The topics include:

  • Age
  • Alcohol or Drug Use
  • Arrest Record
  • Religious affiliation (particularly in relation to work availability)
  • Family & Marital status (particularly in relation to working nights/weekends) including whether they have children and/or are pregnant (or anticipating starting a family)
  • Education questions that do not relate to the job
  • Financial status and credit inquiries
  • Race, national origin, or color

Keep in mind that this list is not all-inclusive.  What you want to make sure of while interviewing is that the questions are job-related ONLY.  This will protect you from asking anything illegal.

Want to learn more?  Make sure to check out The People Plan – HR in a box from Sage Wedding Pros.  And, remember… I’m here to be an extension of your team as your personal HR Consultant and am happy to help with any of your personnel needs!  Contact me at for more info.


  1. says

    The interesting thing now a days is that there are so many ways employers can find out the answer to all those questions with out having to ask it of you. Namely Facebook and other social media sites and many people have personal blogs as well.

    It makes me wonder if companies can now discriminate easier on the basis of all of those topics without you even realizing it because of the information on the internet. I think it is a sad but true part of today’s reality :)

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