Before you schedule candidates for job interviews, double check that your janitor interview questions are legal.

It’s common for job candidates to be nervous about answering interview questions the right way, but how often do interviewers think about whether or not they’re asking legal questions? Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you can’t put in your list of janitor interview questions without opening your company up to potential liability.

The majority of compliance laws that affect janitor interview questions are governed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, keep in mind that state and local governments may have other additional laws that you may need to follow. To find out more about those, check with your state Department of Labor or your local labor board.


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4 Ways to make the most of your janitorial interview questions

1. Prepare ahead of time

One of the challenges that interviewers face in the hiring process is that it only takes a slight slip of language to turn some questions from compliant to illegal. For example, it’s not compliant to ask a candidate if he or she is a United States citizen. However, you can ask a candidate if he or she has a legal right to work in the United States without sponsorship. Asking the first way could result in something as serious as a lawsuit; asking the second way simply gives you the information you need to move on.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Prepare a list of janitor interview questions ahead of time so that you don’t get tripped up over words. If you have a legal department or other attorney connection, see if they will review your questions to make sure they comply with the law. It’s recommended that you check your janitor interview questions for compliance at least once a quarter since laws change frequently and sometimes without much notice.

Failure to have an approved list of questions not only opens you up to potential legal action, but it also means you have to remember each question you mean to ask, which is harder than it seems under pressure. (And if you’ve ever interviewed someone before, you know the pressure doesn’t only exist on the candidate’s side of the table!)

2. What not to ask

Perhaps more important even than knowing what to ask is knowing what not to ask. There are some basic things you can’t include with janitor interview questions, and that would immediately put your business at risk for a discrimination suit, even if no discrimination took place. Some things you can’t ask about are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race
  • Pregnancy status or plans
  • Family status
  • Citizenship status/ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Disability status
  • Medical history

There are other things you either can’t or shouldn’t ask about during an interview, so know that this is not a comprehensive list. For a full breakdown of what can and cannot be asked, visit the EEOC website where you can also check back frequently for updates to the law.

3. How to phrase questions to get answers

Despite what seems like so many restrictions, there are ways to get the important answers you need without opening yourself up to a discrimination claim. For example, while you can’t ask about someone’s medical history, you can ask if there is anything that might prevent a candidate from doing the job. Even better, be specific. Can the candidate lift up to twenty-five pounds without assistance? Notice how there’s no discrimination here if the answer is no. If the job requires that sort of lifting, it’s reasonable to ask a candidate if they can do it.

The rule of thumb is that you want to know if a candidate can perform all of the job duties you expect them to encounter. You can’t ask if someone has kids at home, but you can ask if there’s anything in a candidate’s life that might regularly interfere with their working hours. If you hire that candidate and they end up missing work all the time for their kids, you address it as an attendance problem. All of these conversations focus on getting the job done, not a candidate’s personal life.


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4. The most important questions to ask

Finally, we’ll leave you with a short list of janitor interview questions you should ask each candidate. These are basic questions that will give you the necessary information to know whether or not it’s even worth it to move on. Some questions are:

  • Are you legally authorized to work in the United States for any company without sponsorship?
  • Will you require sponsorship at any time?
  • Is there anything that might prevent you from performing the duties of the job?
  • Do you have a reliable way to get to work and job sites on time?
  • Do you have the flexibility to work overtime?

Again, this isn’t a complete list. Many interview questions you’ll want to ask will be specific to the job. Just remember that whether you’re asking those or the questions above, your focus needs to be on job readiness and skills qualifications and nothing else.

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