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5 Questions Franchisees Should Never Ask a Job Candidate in an Interview

Posted by Erin Borgerson on July 22, 2015


One issue that has been gaining a lot of traction lately—especially in the realm of franchising—has been hiring discrimination. Questionable hiring practices and interview questions within the industry have led to countless discrimination lawsuits dealing with a range of topics like race, age and gender.

Oftentimes, franchisees simply don’t know that the questions they’re asking are illegal, even ones that they consider to be polite and conversational. However, with unlawful discrimination cases becoming more and more prevalent, franchise brands must do everything in their power to keep their interview practices legal and consistent, system wide.

Hireology shares five common interview questions that actually are illegal. Although these questions are commonplace, franchisees should never ask them in a job interview to ensure that your brand doesn’t end up with a discrimination lawsuit on its hands.

1. "Where’s your accent from?"

It is illegal for an employer to ask candidates questions dealing with where they were born, what their citizenship status is or if English is their first language. The Immigration Reform and Control Act specifically forbids employers from discriminating against applicants based on their citizenship or national origin. The only reason an employer should be concerned with where a candidate is from is if knowledge of a second language is required for the job. If that is the case, franchisees may ask the candidate what languages they speak or even give them a language assessment to test their skills.

2. "What are your plans for Christmas (or any other holiday)?”

When there’s a religious holiday like Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan nearing, it may seem like friendly conversation to ask about a candidate’s holiday plans. However, this can be misconstrued to seem like you’re asking an applicant to expand on their religious affiliation. According to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, questions about religious beliefs are off-limits during an interview, so franchisees should avoid asking holiday-related questions altogether. If the position requires that the candidate works nontraditional hours or interferes with any religious holidays, the candidate will be able to give you his or her work availability.

3. "Do you have any disabilities?"

According to Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “an employer may not discriminate against a qualified candidate who is disabled, and must make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for physically or mentally impaired employees.” Asking about the existence or nature of a disability is something that should be avoided unless the condition is severe or obvious enough that it will interfere with their ability to do the job properly. If you believe an applicant has an obvious disability (e.g. missing arm, blindness), ask the applicant to describe how he or she would perform the essential functions of the job without a reasonable accommodation.

4. "Have you ever been arrested before?"

The only time you can ask this is if the position in question is for a police office or courtroom judge. Otherwise, unless the arrest directly resulted in a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, you cannot legally ask about a past arrest record. All applicants are required to provide their prospective employers with full disclosure regarding any felonies or misdemeanors that they may have on record.

5. “Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?"

Questions regarding a candidate’s financial status, credit or any outstanding debt are completely illegal, not to mention irrelevant. The candidate’s past financial history should have nothing to do with future job performance. The franchisee is well within his or her rights as an employer to perform a background/credit check that will provide them with a full overview of a candidate’s credit.

Interviews are the best resource to help you determine if a candidate is the right fit for your franchise. However, asking seemingly harmless, casual questions can lead down a slippery slope toward a discrimination lawsuit. These were just a few examples of things to watch out for, to see the full list check out our eBook titled Avoiding Litigation: 10 Questions Franchisees Should Never Ask in an Interview to help give you insights into which questions you should be asking.

For more information on how Hireology can help your franchise’s hiring needs, contact us today.

Avoiding Litigation Hireology

Hiring, Franchise Hiring and the Law

Erin Borgerson

About the Author

Erin is the Director of Marketing, Crisis Controller and Culture Ambassador (the last two titles she gave to herself) who joined the Hireology team in April of 2012. As a certified Inbound Marketer, Erin manages Hireology's marketing department, the Hireology Blog, and media relations. She is also a co-leader of the Chicago Hubspot User Group which brings together Hubspot users from around the Chicagoland area. Erin set off to Chicago after graduating from Western Michigan University. In her spare time she can be found shaking it in a Zumba class, reading a bestseller, or drinking a craft beer on her Wrigleyville porch.