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Faculty Hiring Manual 2023–24
Appendix: Dos and Don’ts with Respect to Interview Questions

Dos and Don’ts with Respect to Interview Questions

When preparing interview questions, the Hiring Unit should think about the thoroughness of the questions asked as well as whether the interviewer’s questions comply with legal requirements. All questions should pertain to a job-related necessity, and inquiries should never have discriminatory intent. The best practice is to ask the same questions of every candidate, with only follow-up questions differing.

There are certain questions that cannot be asked in an interview because they are prohibited by federal and/or state law. The following are intended to be examples of prohibited questions and are not intended to be an exhaustive list. Hiring Units should consult the Office of Workplace Culture in UHR with additional questions. The following are some examples of impermissible/permissible questions as well as explanations for some of the reasons why a question is unacceptable:

  1. Name
    Acceptable: “Have you ever worked for the university under another name?”

    Unacceptable: “Have you had any other names?” “What is your maiden name?

    • Why: Asking about a change in last name could lead to learning if an employee is married or unmarried. It is illegal to discriminate against someone for their marital status.
  2. Birthplace
    Acceptable: “Are you legally eligible for employment in the United States?”

    Unacceptable: “Where were you born?”; “Where were your parents born?”
    • Why: Questions around national origin could potentially lead to the belief that you discriminated against the candidate based on nationality. As such, limit these inquiries to the candidate’s work eligibility, and ask this question consistently to every candidate.
  3. Age
    Acceptable: Do you have any concerns about handling the long hours and extensive travel that this job entails? Are you at least 18 years of age?

    Unacceptable: “How old are you?”; “Do you remember the workplace prior to email?” Any questions you gear towards figuring out the age of the applicant are unacceptable.
    • Why: The only time it is acceptable to ask an applicant’s age is when the job requires an employee of a certain age. For faculty hires, this will likely not be applicable.
  4. Gender
    Acceptable: None

    Unacceptable: Do you wish to be addressed as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms.? What are your plans to have children in the future?
    • Why: Questions geared to accessing someone’s gender may cause the applicant to believe you are basing hiring decisions on their gender identity.
  5. Religion
    Acceptable: “Are you able to work on weekends?” (but only if the position actually requires weekend work).

    Unacceptable: Any questions about a person’s religion or what days they may need off for religious holidays.
    • Why: You are prohibited by law from discriminating against an employee on the basis of religion.
  6. Disability or Perceived Disability
    Acceptable: “Can you attend class in person as scheduled?” “Can you perform the essential functions of the position for which you are interviewing?”

    Unacceptable: “Do you have any health conditions that would lead to absences?”; “How will you get to campus every day?”; “Will you need an accommodation?”; “Are you disabled?”; “Are you healthy?” Any questions concerning Workers’ Compensation claims are also unacceptable.
    • Why: It is against the law to discriminate against an applicant due to a disability or perceived disability.
  7. Marital and/or Familial Status
    Acceptable: “Do you have responsibilities other than work that will interfere with specific job requirements such as traveling?” “Do any of your relatives work for the university?” “What are their names?”

    Unacceptable: “What are your child-care arrangements?” “Are you married?” “What relatives live with you?” “With whom do you reside?”
    • Why: Questions concerning childcare and living arrangements could be perceived as discriminatory based on gender or familial or marital status.
  8. Pregnancy
    Acceptable: “What are your long-term career goals?”

    Unacceptable: “Are you pregnant?”; “If you get pregnant, will you continue to work, and will you come back after maternity leave?”
    • Why: You are not permitted to make any hiring decisions based on pregnancy status.
  9. Race
    Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions about the applicant’s race or color.

    Unacceptable: Any questions that are geared towards determining the race of the applicant are unacceptable.
    • Why: Trying to figure out an applicant’s race could lead to the assumption that you are making a hiring decision based on that factor.
  10. National Origin
    Acceptable: “What languages can you read, write or speak?” “How fluent are you?”

    Unacceptable: Any questions about an applicant’s lineage or date of entry into the U.S.
    • Why: Questions about nationality may be perceived as national origin discrimination.
  11. Age
    Acceptable: “Tell me about your educational background.”

    Unacceptable: “When did you graduate high school?” “When did you receive your degree?”
    • Why: This again pertains to discriminating against someone because of their age.
  12. U.S. Military Service
    Acceptable: “What is your work experience?” “Do you have experience with the U.S. Armed Forces?” “Why did you leave your last job?”

    Unacceptable: “What type of discharge did you receive from the military?”
    • Why: Laws prohibit you from discriminating against military members who were honorably discharged.
  13. Criminal Background
    Acceptable: Avoid these questions, as University Human Resources oversees the criminal background check process.

    Unacceptable: “Have you ever been arrested?”
    • Why: Several state laws limit the use of arrest and conviction records by prospective employers. Also, basing hiring decisions solely on criminal history can have an adverse impact on certain protected classes.
  14. Compensation
    Acceptable: “What is your desired level of compensation?” “What level of compensation would you expect in the position?”

    Unacceptable: “What was your salary / how much were you paid in your former position?”
    • Why: The law in New Jersey and in many other states prohibits employers from asking about salary history and prior compensation.

Faculty Hiring Manual 2023–2024

The Rutgers University Faculty Hiring Manual is intended to support efforts in Rutgers departments, colleges/schools, and other academic units across our chancellor-led units. It outlines university policies, procedures, and best practices for identifying, selecting, and hiring exemplary future colleagues whose research, teaching, and service will advance the university's mission.

thumbnail of faculty hiring manual cover for 2023-24