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Questions to Avoid During an Interview

If you’re a part of Human Resources, then you should be used to conducting interviews. Every day, lots of applicants try their chances at getting into the company that they want, and it’s the job of the employers to see if these people are right for the vacant positions by asking them the right questions.

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However, if you’re going to ask questions, then you need to make sure you ask appropriate questions. So this article will help you identify what questions you should and shouldn’t ask during an interview.

Interview questions you can’t ask

In just about every job interview that’s conducted, the goal is to obtain important information while trying to build a friendly rapport with the person being interviewed. Try to protect yourself and the image of your company from any type of legal trouble and embarrassment by avoiding the wrong questions. So here are some subjects you should refrain from talking about during an interview.


Of course, you would want to make sure that the person you’re about to hire is someone that’s legally able to work for you, but it’s important to try and phrase the question properly. These questions address citizenship, language, and any other touchy subject and they’re not to be taken lightly. Let’s say that you would like to ask the person if he or she is a resident of your country. You shouldn’t be so direct about it. Instead, you should ask if he or she is authorized to work in the country where your company is located.


Religion is a very touchy subject that should be treated delicately in the office, and even more so in HR interviews. You have to protect yourself by making sure that you don’t overstep your boundaries while, at the same time, still get the information you need. When you’re asking questions about an applicant’s religion, you have to be subtle. Don’t just bring it up and ask, “What religion do you practice?” This can be considered rude in some cultures and give an applicant a negative image of you. It’s best that you ask questions such as, “Are you available to work within our required schedule template?” With this question, they might provide you with information as to when they can and cannot work, giving you a hint as to what kind of religion they practice.


Maturity is essential for most positions, but it’s important that you don’t just make any form of assumption because of an applicant’s age. Let’s face it; a lot of employers today would rather hire someone who’s older and looks like he or she has more experience over a person who’s younger and has the looks of someone that’s fresh out of college. Alternately, you also have to be careful about discrimination against applicants who are already nearing retirement age. Remember that you can’t just ask how old someone is since that would be considered rude. If it’s someone that seems like he or she has already experienced working in the office for far too long, then you can ask questions such as,, “What are your long-term career smart goals?” instead of asking whether that person is going to retire soon or not.

Marital and family status

These questions primarily concern women with children, but they’re just as applicable to every candidate. Ensure yourself that you don’t make any assumptions that could completely embarrass yourself. You don’t just ask a woman what her marital status is. Because while this type of question may seem harmless, there are those that would rather not share information about their marital status. Instead, you can verify whether or not she’s gained experience using any other names. An example of such a question would be, “Have you worked or earned a degree under another name?”


Once you’ve reached the stage where you and that candidate can meet for an interview appointment, then his or her gender is almost always clear. However, it is important to ensure that you don’t make assumptions about the skills and abilities that a person possesses simply because of their gender. If there’s a position in the company that has always been filled by a specific gender, you don’t just ask the applicant if he or she can take on the role. You should leave gender out of the question and focus more on what the position needs. So you should ask the candidate a question like, “What do you have to offer to this position and to the company?”

Health and physical abilities

Your employees’ health and abilities are essential in making sure that they’re actually able to get the job done, but it’s important to avoid assumptions and discrimination unless you want to find yourself in a courthouse. Stick to questions that will help you avoid embarrassment while still allowing you to gauge the physical and mental health of the applicant. So if the applicant clearly has a disability, then just ask whether he or she can perform specific duties required by the position.


Avoid interviewing gaffes by sidestepping questions about the applicant’s residence, legal troubles, and military service. Because if you know that a candidate for hire did indeed serve in the military, don’t ask if he or she was discharged at a certain point. You don’t want to discriminate against a person just like that, so you can ask instead if his or her experience in the military will benefit the company.

Ways to identify toxic applicants during an interview

The only thing worse than interviewing negative people is actually hiring them. So here are some tips and tricks that should help ensure you only get the best people that your organization deserves and who will comply with your company policy:

Ask potentially toxic questions

You can ask the applicant at least five things that he or she didn’t like about a previous (or current) job. Asking for just one thing will only allow you to understand so much about a person while asking for five will definitely help you with your strategic plan to gain more insight into an applicant.

Ask how the applicant handles a difficult situation

A good way of knowing if the job applicant is going to be a toxic employee is by asking what went wrong in his or her previous company and how he or she was able to handle it. If that person answers that it was mainly due to the fault of another person, then you can definitely tell that the person is quick to blame others should anything bad happen. So what you’re basically going to do is ask interviewees to describe an experience where things did not turn out well for them and see how they react to the question. Based on the kind of answer they give you, you may or may not receive a red flag telling you that this person is not going to work well for you and your company.

Ask about the future

You should ask candidates where they see themselves five or 10 years down the road. This is really going to help you see if they’re the type that’s committed to a long-term profession, or if they’re just trying to find the right answers so that they’ll be hired. Having these potential employees paint a clear picture of the visions of their own future will tell you a lot of things regarding whether or not they’re a good fit for a position in your company.

Speak with the references

A lot of employers ask for references but never actually do anything with them. This is a mistake that has to be fixed as asking references for confirmation about the information the applicant has given you will help you see whether this person has been upfront with you. So let’s say that you receive a reference letter from the candidate. You need to actually use the information on that reference letter and set up a brief conversation with the reference contact. While this does involve a bit of extra work on your end, you’ll be thanking yourself that you did it if you ever find out anything that may prevent you from hiring someone.

Set up different interview stages

There should be an intensive process where candidates for hire go through multiple tests that show off their skills, experience, attitude, and cultural fit within the company. This kind of process will allow you to determine which of these people are just acting to get the job and those who are genuinely doing their best in order to get hired. Anyone can put up a front for an hour, but one’s true colors are revealed after an entire day of meetings, interviews, or tests that will see if they can handle what it takes to stay within a particular company.

Ask about their best moments at work

Candidates can come up with a lot of their own versions about the negative experiences that they had in their previous company. You should catch them off guard and instead ask them about their best moments in their last job. If someone gives you answers that feel really superficial (such as the free lunches, office parties, etc.), then you know that this person is someone that can’t see the deeper meaning behind the position that he or she previously held.

Ask the candidate forced negative questions

Questions like, “Why shouldn’t I hire you?” or “Who is the worst person you hired and why?” can set the stage for these candidates to really open up. Asking an applicant questions like these will make their answers feel more authentic. You’ll be putting them in a position where they won’t really have much of a choice but to react in a way that you would expect them to.

See if the applicant holds any grudges

There are always going to be those people who can’t look beyond past differences and there are those who are going to voice out how they feel. Then there are those who won’t do anything and just simply allow their relationships with others to end. Any professional candidate that mentions their problems to other people is usually someone that’s part of the problem.

Watch out for applicants that complain a lot

A candidate who complains a lot is someone who’s going to be really unproductive, and these are the types of people that you should definitely avoid hiring. If the person that you’re hiring has been making all sorts of sample complaints about his or her previous employer, then this is a serious red flag. It’s okay for them to dislike a couple of things about their previous job, but they need to be able to explain what these issues are and they have to do it well. So ask them why the problem was such a big deal and see how that person responds.

If you would like to learn more about questions that you should ask or avoid during interviews, then be sure to read our other available articles to give you the information that you need.

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