Interviewing Etiquette for Employers

Interviewing Etiquette for Employers

With nearly 100,000 workplace discrimination charges reported by the EEOC in 2012, it is important for employers to be mindful of federal and state discrimination regulations, beginning with the interview process.  Employers are prohibited by the Federal Discrimination Law to make hiring decisions on the basis of national origin, race, religion, sex and retaliation on the basis of having opposed an unlawful employment practice. In addition to the Federal Law, Oregon State Law bans discrimination based on age (18 or older), disability, injury, marital status, and sexual orientation.

Interview questions should be strictly job related and should not directly address these personal topics, but according to experts, many employers unknowingly disobey these regulations in casual conversation with the candidate.

Planning interview questions ahead of time may help to keep the conversation on track and will allow the employer time to format questions that may be related to these prohibited topics in an appropriate way. This will provide the employer with information about the candidate that is most relevant to the job, while assuring that they are in compliance with discrimination regulations.

Below are some examples of unacceptable interview questions that may fall under these personal and prohibited topics, and how to transform them in a way that makes them more acceptable and applicable to the job.


  • Unacceptable: How old are you?
  • Acceptable: Are you over the age of eighteen?


  • Unacceptable: Are you a U.S. Citizen?
  • Acceptable: Are you lawfully employable in the U.S. either by virtue of citizenship or by having authorization from the U.S. government?


  • Unacceptable: Do you have any disabilities?
  • Acceptable: Are you able to perform the essential functions of the job for which you are applying? (Provide the applicant with a copy of the job description)


  • Unacceptable: When did you graduate from high school?
  • Acceptable: What schools have you attended?

Family Relationship

  • Unacceptable: What are your childcare arrangements?
  • Acceptable: Are you able to work the hours required for this position?


  • Unacceptable: What is your native language?
  • Acceptable: What languages do you speak and write fluently? (If the job requires additional languages)

Military Record

  • Unacceptable: What type of discharge did you receive?
  • Acceptable: What type of education, training and work experience relevant to the job did you receive while in the military?

National Origin

  • Unacceptable: What is your maiden name?
  • Acceptable: Have you ever been known by another name?


  • Unacceptable: To what clubs and organizations do you belong to?
  • Acceptable: To what professional or trade groups do you belong that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this job?

Physical Ability and Workers Compensation

  • Unacceptable: I see you left your previous position due to a back injury. Do you have any current back problems that would prevent you from performing your job?
  • Acceptable: This position requires lifting up to 50 lbs. Are you able to perform the essential functions of the job? (Provide applicant with a copy of the job description that includes physical demands and work environment)


  • Acceptable: None


  • Unacceptable: What religion are you?
  • Acceptable: Are there specific times that you cannot work?


Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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