Interview Questions: Guidelines for the Interviewer

During the interview, questions can be asked to determine whether or not a candidate is qualified to do the job. You may ask if an applicant can perform essential functions of the position, as well as ask the applicant to describe or demonstrate how he or she would perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.

For example, the position may require that telephone calls be made. A candidate with a hearing loss applies for the position. She states that she can perform the essential functions of making telephone calls with a volume control for the telephone.

Therefore, the candidate can perform that essential function of the position with a reasonable accommodation. If the candidate states that he or she cannot perform the essential functions of your position with or without reasonable accommodations, then that person is not qualified for the position. While not required, it is strongly encouraged that you repeat the question and ensure that the candidate understands the meaning of "with or without reasonable accommodation."

Information that may be requested on application forms or in interviews includes the following:

  • You may ask questions to determine whether an applicant can perform specific job functions. The questions should focus on the applicant's ability to perform the job, not on a disability.
  • You may ask a candidate to describe or demonstrate how he/she would perform specific job functions with or without an accommodation.
  • When there is reason to believe that a candidate will not be able to perform a job function because of a known disability, you may ask that particular person to describe or demonstrate how he/she would perform a job-related function. A candidate's disability would be a "known disability" either because it is obvious (for example, the applicant uses a wheelchair), or because the candidate has voluntarily disclosed that s/he has a hidden disability.
  • You may ask about a candidate's non-medical qualifications and skills, such as his/her education, work history, and required certifications and licenses.
  • You may ask if the candidate can meet attendance requirements.

Prohibited Questions during the Hiring Process

Under the ADA, an employer may not ask disability-related questions and may not conduct medical examinations until after it makes a conditional offer to the applicant. Questions are prohibited which would likely elicit information about a disability, or whether an applicant has a particular disability.

In general, questions are prohibited regarding the nature or severity of disability, the condition causing disability, prognosis, or treatment. Inquiries should also not be made about possible leave time for treatment, and certainly not about prior workers' compensation claims. These types of questions are now prohibited to ensure that persons with disabilities are given an equal opportunity to apply for a position without regard to their disability.

EEOC regulations interpreting the ADA list numerous questions that may not be asked on application forms or in job interviews. Some of these are:

  • Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Do you have a disability that would interfere with your ability to perform the job?
  • How many days were you sick last year?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • How much alcohol do you drink each week? Have you ever been treated for alcoholism? (Alcoholism, past or present, and past drug addiction can be a protected disability, unlike current use of unlawful drugs, which is not protected.)
  • Asking an obviously disabled candidate questions about how the disability happened, what the prognosis is, or how the impairment affects the applicant's daily life activities.
  • Can you stand? Can you walk? (These questions are probably too broad to be directed to ability to perform a job function, and instead are regarded as inquiries into the existence of a disability.)
  • What medications are you currently taking?

During the interview process, candidates with disabilities should also never be counseled toward more restrictive career options. They can be informed of the requirements of a given career, and the difficulties they may encounter, but cannot be counseled away from an area of interest simply because of their disability.

Equal Opportunities for Everyone

Regardless of physical limitations, it is the fit between an individual's abilities and the position that matters. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but accept a share of responsibility for making the interaction successful. You can give candidates with disabilities a fair chance to present their qualifications by ensuring that:

  • The application and interview process complies with the ADA, which prohibits disability-related questions or medical exams before a real job offer is made.
  • The office or other interview location is accessible to candidates with mobility, visual, or hearing disabilities. When setting up interviews, explain the interview process in detail and provide a mechanism through which any candidate can request a disability-related accommodation.
  • All questions asked during an interview are job-related, open ended and focused on the disabled candidate's technical and professional knowledge, skills, experiences, and interest, and not on the disability itself.
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