Yes, there are stupid questions.
When you are hiring an employee, everybody who is involved in the interview process needs to be well trained and well versed in the legal aspects of the hiring process. The purpose of the interview needs to remain clear: determining if a potential employee would be a good fit and an appropriate and effective employee. Therefore, crafting appropriate questions and making sure that they are disseminated to all interviewers is crucial. All those who conduct screenings and interviews need to be trained and educated, regardless of whether each of these individuals is ultimately an actual decision maker regarding hiring decisions.
Here are some categories that might be necessary for you to ascertain during an interview and some permissible and prohibited questions:
Family situation: Your essential reason for wanting to know about an employee’s family situation is to determine that they are fundamentally stable and that their family responsibilities will not interfere with their workload.
You may not ask: Do you have children? Do you plan to have children? What are your child care arrangements? Are you married?
You are allowed to ask: Have you gone by any other names? (They may then give you a maiden name.) Will you be able to handle the workload? Are you available to work (occasional) weekends? Will you be able to work overtime, when necessary? Are you able to travel for work-related functions?
Overall Health and Disability: Questions regarding disability are land mines, and can really blow up in fair hiring discrimination lawsuits later on. The only reason that you can ask about physical ability is to assess if a potential hire can handle the physical components of a job.
You may not ask: Do you have any physical disabilities? Have you ever utilized family or medical leave at a previous position? Do you have any conditions that would prevent you from doing work? Have you ever received worker’s compensation benefits?
You are allowed to ask: only questions that are directly related to the functional aspects of the job, such as Can you stand for long periods of time? Can you lift 20 pounds over your head?
National Origin: It is discriminatory to inquire about a person’s national origin. Your focus should only be if somebody may lawfully work in the United States.
You may not ask: Where were you born? Are you a U.S. citizen? What kind of accent is that? What languages do you speak at home?
You are allowed to ask: Can you furnish proof that you are eligible to work in the United States?
Interviews are a critical part of the screening process and, when conducted appropriately, contribute to hiring appropriate, effective employees. But the interview process can also be fraught with potential faux pas and missteps that can have lasting legal implications. Consider submitting all of your questions as well as a description of your hiring process to an attorney who specializes in employment law.