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Merrick, NY—You already know there are certain questions that are illegal to ask a candidate during a job interview: you can’t ask about someone’s race or color, their sex, religion, national origin or birthplace, their age, or disability or marriage status.

Those are the obvious ones, but be sure you don’t accidentally stray into territory that’s less obvious but no less illegal. Yet there are legal ways to get the information you need. This article on CBS’ outlines a few suggestions from networking site Excelle about ways to reword certain questions legally.

For example, while you can’t ask someone’s age, you can ask if they are over 18. You do need to know if they are legally allowed to work for you, and this is an appropriate (and uncontestable) way to get the information.

You can’t ask if someone is married or divorced or if they have children, but if the job requires flexible hours and/or travel, you can ask if they are available to work those kinds of hours.

Perhaps surprisingly, you can’t ask if someone is a U.S. citizen. But you can ask if they are legally allowed to work here. And you also can’t ask if they’ve ever been arrested, only if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime that is relevant to the field or career they’re seeking.

Separately, it’s become de rigueur for hiring managers to check out candidates’ Facebook pages. But this article from says that actually may not be such a good idea. In it, HR expert Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent, a recruiting agency based in the Cincinnati, OH area, warns it’s easy to fall into bias traps when viewing candidates’ profiles. For example, a photo of someone laughing with a drink in hand may be assumed to be drunk when in fact they were simply be having a good time with friends and drinking a nonalcoholic drink.

McClure says your interview questions and process should be designed to be enough to gather the information you need without snooping online—but if you must, she suggests you have a third party do the evaluations according to a set criteria, and emphasizes consistency: if you check out the social profile of one candidate, you must do it for all. Otherwise you leave yourself open to accusations of bias and potential lawsuits.  She also recommends using LinkedIn or other business media sites over Facebook, looking for inconsistencies with what candidates have posted there and what they’ve put on their resume.

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