What Not to Ask and How to Rephrase

Are you a U.S. citizen?

Instead: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?

What is your native language?

Instead: What languages do you read, speak or write fluently?

How long have you lived here?

Instead: What is your current address and phone number? Do you have any alternative locations where you can be reached?


What religion do you practice?

Instead: What days are you available to work?

Which religious holidays do you observe?

Instead: Are you able to work with our required schedule?

Do you belong to any clubs or social organizations?

Instead: Are you a member of a professional or trade group that is relevant to our industry?


How old are you?

Instead: Are you over the age of 18?

How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?

Instead: What are your long-term career goals?

Marital and Family Status

Is this your maiden name (or have you ever been married/divorced)?

Instead: Have you worked or earned a degree under another name?

Do you have or plan to have children?

Instead: Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel? 

Can you get a babysitter, or daycare, on short notice for overtime or travel?

Instead: You’ll be required to travel or work overtime on short notice. Is this a problem for you?

Do you have kids?

Instead: What is your experience with “x” age group? (if the job requires this kind of experience)

Who is your closest relative to notify in case of an emergency?

Instead: In case of emergency, who should we notify?

What do your parents do for a living?

Instead: Tell me how you became interested in the “x” industry.

If you get pregnant, will you continue to work, and will you come back after maternity leave?

Instead: What are your long-term career goals?


We’ve always had a man/woman do this job. How do you think you will manage as a (female/male)?

Instead: What do you have to offer our company?

How do you feel about supervising men/women (order “old/younger” people than yourself)?

Instead: Tell me about you previous experience managing teams.

What do you think of interoffice dating?

Instead: Have you ever been disciplined for your behavior at work?

Health and Physical Abilities

Do you smoke or drink?

Instead: In the past, have you been disciplined for violating company policies forbidding the use of alcohol or tobacco products?

Do you take drugs?

Instead: Do you use illegal drugs?

How tall are you and how much do you weigh?

Instead: Are you able to reach items on a shelf that’s five feet tall?

Instead: Are you able to lift boxes weighing up to 50 pounds?

How many sick days did you take last year?

Instead: How many days of work did you miss last year?

Do you have any disabilities?

Instead: Are you able to perform the specific duties of this position?

Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations?

Instead: Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations?

Do you have any or have you ever had any Workers’ Comp claims?

Instead: Never ask this question in any form 


How far is your commute?

Instead: Are you able to start work at 8 a.m.?

Do you live nearby?

Instead: Are you willing to relocate?

Have you ever been arrested?

Instead: Have you ever been convicted of “x” (fraud, theft and so on)?

Were you honorably discharged from the military?

Instead: Tell me how your experience in the military can benefit the company.

Are you a member of the National Guard or Reserves?

Instead: Do you have any upcoming events that would require extensive time away from work?


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