The 10 Questions to NEVER Ask During an Interview

Here are the 10 questions to put on your Do Not Ask List when you’re interviewing a job candidate.

The last thing you want to worry about are the people you interview but don’t hire. For every position, there are stacks of applications and running your business takes up too much time for you to remember the details of every interview you conduct. However, those details could wind up costing you a lot of time and money. It’s worth your time to refresh on the basics of the interview to avoid potential complications down the road.

Even if your workplace is casual, your interviews shouldn’t be

An interview is like a conversation, but it’s extremely important to remember that it is not a conversation; it’s a formal consultation to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications. Questions that could reveal personal details should never be asked during an interview. As such, the most common pitfall to avoid is casual conversation about personal interests, family, or any other topic that doesn’t have a direct bearing on the position in question. You don’t want to end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

A CareerBuilder poll found that one in five hiring managers have asked questions during an interview that they later found out were illegal. Further, a full third of employers didn’t realize that all the following 10 questions are illegal to ask:

  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What is your political affiliation?
  • What is your race, color or ethnicity?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children or plan to?
  • Are you in debt?
  • Do you social drink or smoke?

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act doesn’t explicitly list questions that can and cannot be asked in an interview, the consequences of asking these questions in an interview are very real and can be extraordinarily costly.

For more information on this topic, contact Alex Gertsburg at 440-571-7775 or Get more legal tips for your business on The Gertsburg Law Firm blog, with new articles every week.

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  • Next up: The Gen Z Hiring Process Needs to Change
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  • The Gen Z Hiring Process Needs to Change

    The traditional approach companies have taken in regard to their hiring process just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to hiring Generation Z.

    One thing that has been identified regarding hiring Generation Z is a skills gap. Many members of this generation struggle with things such as:

    • rigorous self-evaluation;
    • taking personal responsibility;
    • maintaining a positive attitude;
    • taking good care of themselves outside of work; and
    • self-presentations, such as timeliness, organization, production, quality, follow-through and initiative.

    This is a lengthy list and might seem somewhat overwhelming to hiring managers. The good news is I have some tips to redesign entry-level work for Gen Z and the hiring process itself.

    New thinking is needed

    When you first think about acquisition, what probably comes to mind is traditional thinking around the process—campus recruiting, technical skills, specific experience, job postings and head hunters. However, you might need to look at things differently. New thinking involves looking at a broad spectrum and engaging in new ways.

    With that in mind, here are five keys to recruiting Generation Z.

    Key No. 1: Become highly engaged in the hiring process.

    Key No. 2: Highlight examples of personal and corporate integrity.

    Key No. 3: Demonstrate genuine ties to the community and social responsibility.

    Key No. 4: Show them there are opportunities for advancement

    Key No. 5: Think about how you’ll retain this generation while you’re recruiting them.

    All the above directly align with what Generation Z is looking for when accepting a job. If you can share your insight on these items during the recruiting process, you will be that much further ahead.

    After hiring

    Once your job offer is accepted, you must think about how you will engage and retain these new hires. This will likely result in needing to rethink your entry-level positions.

    Some companies might offer assignments of job rotations. The traditional thinking is linear job progression (lateral growth). A new progressive way to think of it is through mobility, being data-driven and with partners. Companies might consider special projects and experiences.

    Next up is thinking through ongoing formal development. Historically, this is done through e-learning, classrooms and technical skills. New thinking suggests experiential learning, soft skills development and apprenticeships. This will require companies to redesign their onboarding process and provide access to different resources.

    In terms of informal development, many companies have inconsistent mentoring and on-the-job learning. Companies will want to think through how to transfer knowledge and provide exposure.

    Creating a company culture has always been key, but unfortunately most companies place the existence of a strong culture in the “nice to have” category. Generation Z is going to expect things such as paid time off (PTO), family leave, wellness policies, etc. It will be important for companies to determine how they can offer these benefits and raise the culture.

    This might seem like a lot to take in, but companies can take small steps to ensure they are recruiting and retaining the best and brightest members of Generation Z.

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

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  • Next up: The Grand Plan for Healthcare in 2016
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  • The Grand Plan for Healthcare in 2016

    When it comes to small business health insurance, one thing is certain: change is guaranteed. In 2016, many small business owners will need to reconsider their current health insurance and make a decision.

    When it comes to small business health insurance, one thing is certain: change is guaranteed. In 2016, many small business owners will need to reconsider their current health insurance and make a decision.

    To determine if you are one of the groups that will need to re-evaluate your plan, let’s start by reviewing the current benefits landscape. As a COSE small business owner, there’s more than a 90 percent chance you’re currently in a grandfathered or transitional/grandmothered health benefits plan. Or maybe you’ve already made the leap to an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan. Either way, here’s a quick recap of all three plan options:

    Grandfathered Plans

    Grandfathered plans are defined as those plans created on or before March 23, 2010, that are exempt from certain ACA requirements and might, as a result, be more affordable. For instance, grandfathered plans do not have to cover essential health benefits, annual maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) limits and preventive benefits that require no cost to employees. There are other benefits to being a grandfathered plan. Grandfathered groups are not subject to community rating, which sometimes results in premium increases that can be drastically higher than grandfathered health plan offerings. Most grandfathered plans are no longer available in the marketplace, so if you like your plan, you may want to keep it. There is no requirement to change.

    Transitional/Grandmothered Plans

    The intent of the ACA was to require all non-grandfathered groups to switch to an ACA plan. In 2014, the president decided to allow non-grandfathered groups to keep their plans until 2015, and then again until 2016. These groups are considered transitional/grandmothered.

    In general, policies in effect on October 1, 2013, and renewed before January 1, 2015, are transitional plans. Groups with grandmothered/transitional plans will need to move to an ACA plan, if their policy renews between October 2, 2016, and December 31, 2016, unless the government grants an extension.

    If you are currently enrolled with Medical Mutual, your grandfathered and/or grandmothered/transitional status can be found in your renewal packet on the benefit summary page. If you are a group with both a grandfathered and transitional/grandmothered section (dual option), you are considered a transitional/grandmothered plan. When transitional relief has ended, you will be required to move into an ACA plan.

    ACA Plans

    ACA plans are all plans that are not grandfathered or transitional/grandmothered. These plans require employers to offer 10 essential health benefits to meet all ACA requirements. Unlike the other plan types, groups with ACA plans can change their benefits every year.

    What should I do now?

    Grandfathered plans: Consider your two options. You can stay grandfathered or make the switch to ACA. If your group’s overall health has worsened, there’s a chance ACA rates are lower and you may see an ACA plan as the better option. However, there are still reasons to consider maintaining your grandfathered status. With grandfathered status, you can continue with an underwritten rate when your group’s health risk improves. You can maintain benefits without the additional cost of ACA requirements, such as essential health benefits. 

    If you are wondering whether you should switch to an ACA plan, we urge you to discuss this with your broker, or contact the COSE Benefits Group at (440) 878-5930 or

    If you want to keep your plan, ACA requirements will not impact your group as long as you do not make significant plan changes. Guidelines for maintaining grandfathered status are available in the sidebar with this article. 

    Transitional/grandmothered plans: As of now, you will need to switch to an ACA plan in 2016. You may be wondering if it’s better to make the switch to ACA before it is mandatory. Keep in mind that for as long as you’re a transitional group, you’re not subject to ACA mandatory benefits, community rating or rate benefit design limitations. If your plan is working for you, it may be best to stay transitional/grandmothered as long as possible. There is also a chance that the government will extend this transitional relief again. Also, there may be additional future plan options allowing you to delay your switch to ACA in 2016. We will keep you informed of all government changes and any new product options.

    ACA plans: The only requirement for those with ACA plans in 2016 is they recertify their status as a small group. All small groups have to certify their status as a small group to ensure they are placed in the correct market segment. If you have not done so, contact your broker or Medical Mutual Service Representative to get the information needed for certifying your group.

    If you have any questions on what the future may hold for your group, or if you’re not sure whether or not to switch to an ACA plan, we urge you to talk with your broker or Medical Mutual Sales Representative. 

    How to Maintain Grandfathered Status

    When it comes to staying grandfathered, the list of things you can’t change seems endless. The easiest way to approach the topic is to consider the things you can change and still maintain grandfathered status. This includes:

    • The addition of family members or the addition of new employees.
    • Stopping coverage of one or more individuals who were enrolled on March 23, 2010, (as long as the plan or coverage has continuously covered at least one person since March 23, 2010). 
    • Adjusting plan premiums as long as the adjustments do not affect relative contribution levels. For example, if an employer contributes 50 percent of an employee’s premium, an increase in the employee’s premium contribution is permitted. The employer’s contribution will just need to be increased accordingly.
    • Moving from Medical Mutual to a new group policy or plan with another health plan issuer (either the same or a new company) as long as no changes are made to the plan’s benefit structure that violate other rules for maintaining grandfathered status (effective November 15, 2010).
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  • Next up: The Importance of Succession Planning
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  • The Importance of Succession Planning

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  • Next up: The Importance of Teamwork
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  • The Importance of Teamwork

    We spoke to Tameka L. Taylor, Ph.D, CDE, president of Compass Consulting Services, LLC, who shared her expertise on team culture.

    We spoke to Tameka L. Taylor, Ph.D, CDE, president of Compass Consulting Services, LLC, who shared her expertise on team culture:

    Is team building just a waste of time for smaller businesses?

    Absolutely not. In some regards team building is even more important for smaller companies. In larger organizations, it’s easier for employees to avoid interaction and work in silos, but so much of the work in a small business depends on each other, where employees often do a lot of the same jobs and work in close proximity. If people are not effectively working together, treating each other with respect and valuing one another, productivity will suffer.

    How can a poor team culture affect my business?

    If your employees are not happy, you can be sure they are not giving you all that they can give, and there is a Domino effect when it comes to dealing with your customers, clients, vendors and the community-at-large. Unhappy employees do not perform at an optimal level. You’ll see employee and customer retention rates drop which will ultimately affect your bottom line.

    How can I ensure a positive team culture?

    The reality is that the onus for the culture of the workplace in on the owner. Although you cannot control adult behavior, you make the decision as to what behaviors you will and will not tolerate in your business. It’s also important to be a role model of what you expect from others and foster a respectful and trusting environment.

    What are the biggest detriments to a team culture?

    A few of the most damaging behaviors include favoritism or a seeming lack of fairness on the part of an owner or supervisor, dishonesty, and a lack of clear, consistent expectations. Any lack of appreciation or respect in the workplace is also going to have a critical effect on your business.

    Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions to the tough questions they face every day.

    This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

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  • Next up: The Law and COVID-19: A small business’s Q&A on matters of employment, finance & real estate
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  • The Law and COVID-19: A small business’s Q&A on matters of employment, finance & real estate

    Watch our webinar about legal issues related to COVID-19.

    The lawyers of McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA shared the latest updates and legal insights on key areas your business is facing in relation to COVID-19 during a recent COSE webinar, answering questions concerning employment, banking and real estate.

    Watch the webinar below:


    Please note that the information in this webinar was current as of April 17, 2020.

    Exclusively for COSE members, McCarthy Lebit is offering a 30-minute, no-fee consultation in support of a legal issue your company may be experiencing because of COVID-19. COSE members can sign-up for the consultations between April 20 and April 30, 2020, by completing this form.

    The firm will use this information to determine which of its attorneys will best be able to help you. A McCarthy Lebit representative will then call you to set up your appointment.

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