To ask or not to ask? If you’re getting ready to interview candidates for an open position, it’s one of the most important questions of all! Yes, you’re anxious to get to know each candidate, their experience and whether they would be the right fit for the job. But before you finalize your list of interview questions, you need to be aware of those that could stray too far into gray areas or are just blatantly unethical and illegal. There are many questions that are too taboo to ask during an interview and can subject your business to accusations of unfair hiring practices and lawsuits.

The following are a few examples of categories and corresponding questions you might let slip during an interview, but they should be avoided when speaking with candidates. As a general rule, it’s best to stay away from any questions that are not immediately relevant to the job:

Gender, sex, or sexual orientation

Question examples:

  • “Are you comfortable working with a male/female manager?”
  • “What gender do you identify with?”
  • “Do you think as a woman you could manage a team of men?”

Marital or Family Status:

Question examples:

  • “What arrangements do you need to make for childcare?”
  • “Are you single/married/divorced/widowed?”
  • “Do you plan on having a baby or children within the next few years?”

Citizenship or Nationality

Question examples:

  • “Where is your accent from?”
  • “Where did you live while growing up?”


Question examples:

  • “When did you graduate from high school?”
  • “When were you born?”
  • “How long do you plan to work before you retire?”


Question examples:

  • “What church do you go to?”
  • “Will you need days off for religious holidays or practices?”

Medical Information or Disability:

Question examples:

  • “Did you take any sick days or extended medical leave recently?”
  • “Do you have a chronic medical condition we should know about?”
  • “Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?”

Another tricky area is asking questions about a candidate’s salary history. For example, as of October 1, 2020 in Maryland, “employers may not seek pay history, but they may confirm wage history voluntarily provided by an applicant after an initial offer of employment, including an offer of compensation, is made. Upon request, employers must provide an applicant the wage range of the position for which the applicant applied.”

Contemporaries can help you navigate the waters when it comes to the ever-changing laws

Regulations regarding certain interview questions are continually changing in the Washington, DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia region and it can be hard to keep up. Contemporaries always stays up to date on new laws and legal interpretation of existing laws, so you can feel confident that all interviews adhere to fair hiring practices. By working with us, your business avoids liability since we take care of the entire process for you. Call Contemporaries at 301-565-0445 to learn more.