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National Restaurant Association - 5 important do’s and don’ts when asking interview questions

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Manage My Restaurant

5 important do’s and don’ts when asking interview questions

You're the manager of a restaurant and bar. You're interviewing applicants for a server's position and know that state law requires servers to be at least 21 years old to serve alcohol. However, directly asking the applicant their age or other questions may land you and your restaurant in legal hot water. Rewording the question about age to ask, "Are you at least 21 years of age?" would gather the pertinent information and help avoid potential age-discrimination claims.  You should always script what questions will be asked, stick to basic questions, and make sure each applicant is asked all the same questions.

The following are some topics that may be problematic unless you are careful how inquiries are made. 


Do: Show an applicant the job description and list or explain each essential function of the job, as well as what must be done by an employee to perform each essential function. Ask the employee if he/she can perform, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Don’t: Ask or inquire about the disability or what accommodation may be needed until after a job offer is made.

Marital and family status

Do: Show an applicant the job description and explain the hours required and function of the job, and then ask if the applicant can meet these requirements.

Don’t: Ask an applicant his or her marital status, number of children or childcare arrangements or future family plans until after the applicant has been hired, and even then only for insurance, tax or other such business purposes.

Citizenship or nationality

Do: Ask the applicant to show proof of eligibility to work in the United States as to the applicant’s choice of documents outlined on the I-9 forms and to complete the required I-9 forms.

Don’t: Ask if an applicant is a U.S. citizen or where he or she was born.

Arrests or convictions

Do: Generally, avoid asking questions about criminal convictions. However, if you feel that an applicant’s criminal background has a bearing on performing the job, inquire if an applicant has ever been convicted of a criminal offense, other than misdemeanors or minor traffic violations, particularly if a job involves handling money. If the applicant answers “yes,” then ask for a full explanation, including how long ago the offense occurred, if the applicant satisfied any penalty imposed, and mention that the information will not automatically disqualify the person from the job, but simply be a factor to consider. Also, you may point out that falsifying information on a job application is grounds for dismissal.

Don’t: Ask if an applicant has ever been arrested.


Do: Ask if an applicant can comply and be at the job during the required hours.

Don’t: Ask if an applicant has a car.

Sometimes, despite carefully crafted questions, an applicant will volunteer information about his or her life that could be grounds for a discrimination suit. In this instance, it may be best to not respond.

This article’s information does not constitute legal advice. Consult your legal counsel with questions and for assistance crafting interview questions.

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