As a hiring manager trying desperately to unearth the best and brightest talent and draw them to your company, it can be a painstaking process trying to select only the best and most appropriate questions to ask potential candidates.  Through the questions you ask, you are essentially controlling the image of the company to the candidate, while simultaneously charged with discerning an individual’s compatibility with the company based on a mere 45 minutes with them sweating in the chair across from you.  No pressure, right?

As if the stakes weren’t already high and you didn’t have ENOUGH to worry about as an interviewer, you also need to be aware of what questions you ask, and how you word them, to make sure you can legally ask them.

A great article was posted on USAToday outlining interview topics and the legal and illegal ways to address them.

Types of questions

Subject: Nationality
Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen?; Where were you/your parents born?; What is your “native tongue?”
Legal: Are you authorized to work in the United States?; What languages do you read, speak or write fluently? (This question is okay, as long as this ability is relevant to the performance of the job.)

Subject: Age
Illegal: How old are you?; When did you graduate from college?; What is your birthday?
Legal: Are you over the age of 18?

Subject: Marital/Family status
What’s your marital status?; Who do you live with?; Do you plan to have a family?; When?; How many kids do you have?; What are your child care arrangements?
Legal:Would you be willing to relocate if necessary?; Travel is an important part of the job. Would you be willing to travel as needed by the job (This question is okay, as long as all applicants for the job are asked it.); This job requires overtime occasionally. Would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary? (Again, this question okay as long as all applicants for the job are asked it.)

Subject: Affiliations
Illegal: To what clubs or social organizations do you belong?
Legal: Do you belong to any professional or trade groups or other organizations that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this job?

Subject: Personal
Illegal: How tall are you?; How much do you weigh?
Legal: Are you able to lift a 50-pound weight and carry it 100 yards, as that is part of the job? (Questions about height and weight are not acceptable unless minimum standards are essential to the safe performance of the job.)

Subject: Disabilities
Illegal: Do you have any disabilities?; Please complete the following medical history.; Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations? If yes, list and give dates.; What was the date of your last physical exam?; How’s your family’s health?; When did you lose your eyesight?
Legal: Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations? (This question is okay if the interviewer thoroughly described the job.)

(NOTE: As part of the hiring process, after a job offer has been made you will be required to undergo a medical exam. Exam results must be kept strictly confidential, except medical/safety personnel may be informed if emergency medical treatment is required, and supervisors may be informed about necessary job accommodations, based on the exam results.)

Subject: Arrest record
Illegal: Have you ever been arrested?
Legal: Have you ever been convicted of _____? (The crime should be reasonably related to the performance of the job in question.

Subject: Military
Illegal: If you’ve been in the military, were you honorably discharged?; In what branch of the Armed Forces did you serve?
Legal: What type of training or education did you receive in the military?