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Alternatives to interview questions about national origin

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regards questions about a job applicant’s national origin with “extreme disfavor.” Therefore, it may be more likely to accept a claim by an applicant who alleges that you tried to determine where he or she was from by asking inappropriate questions during the hiring process. 

It can be a challenge to comply with anti-discrimination requirements while trying to find out as much relevant information as you can about the applicant’s history. However, there are acceptable questions you can ask to find out job-related information without appearing discriminatory. 

Organizations

You cannot ask an applicant to list all the organizations, such as societies or clubs, to which he or she belongs. However, you can ask about any organizations that the applicant considers relevant to the position for which he or she is applying. 

Languages

If the job requires communication skills in a language other than English, you can ask the applicant to name the languages he or she speaks fluently. However, you cannot ask how the person learned to speak a foreign language, nor what his or her native language is. 

Former names

You can ask a job applicant if he or she has ever worked under a different name. However, you cannot inquire specifically about his or her former name. You cannot ask a female applicant what her maiden name was. 

Employment eligibility

It is acceptable to ask an applicant whether he or she is eligible for employment in the United States. It is not acceptable to ask where the applicant or his/her family is from originally. 

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