How an Employer Can Navigate Personal Topics During a Healthcare IT Interview

How an Employer Can Navigate Personal Topics During a Healthcare IT Interview

When hiring healthcare IT workers, the interview is a vital step in the recruitment process. Medical facilities and hospitals need qualified, trustworthy employees who can handle access to healthcare records and will adhere to HIPAA regulations. Many employers, however, become frustrated when trying to ask personal questions without violating privacy laws. This post addresses some of the more sensitive topics that often need to be addressed in interviews or simply come up in conversation but may require proper wording to not violate the law.

Family Life

Many employers and candidates are nervous or uncomfortable during interviews. As a result, small talk is often made. Topics such as marital status or children seem to be natural conversation starters, however, they are NOT permitted during an interview.

If family life is an important topic to gauge a candidate’s external obligations or dedication to their job, ask questions such as:

  • What is a typical week like for you?
  • What kind of work schedule are you looking for?
  • Do you take work home with you?
  • Tell me about yourself.

Furthermore, only once a person is hired can next of kin or questions concerning relatives be asked for insurance, tax and emergency contact information.


Age may be a surprising topic on this list as employers are often quick to say they would not inquire about a candidate’s age. Questions in connection to age, however, are often what becomes problematic.

Sample questions for an IT candidate that are connected to age that CANNOT be asked include:

  • When did you graduate from college?
  • How long have you been in the industry/work force?
  • When do you plan to retire?

In truth, most questions that can allude to age must be avoided. For healthcare IT jobs, simply ask if the candidate has the requisite education, training and certification. Questions regarding general work experience are also permitted.

Ethnic/Cultural Origin

Any question connected to race must automatically be avoided, but many employers err when making conversation regarding a person’s ethnicity, religion or culture. For example, if the candidate wears a hijab, cross, Star of David or other religious regalia, you CANNOT comment on his or her religion.

Similarly, even if a person speaks with an accent, it is NOT permitted for you to ask about his or her nationality. Furthermore, you CANNOT ask if the applicant’s first language in English. The only question connected to this topic that and employer CAN ask is “Are you a US citizen or legally eligible to work in the US?”

Substance-Related & Criminal Background Questions

Healthcare employers may be surprised that not all questions are restricted when it comes to drug and alcohol use. Though you may NOT inquire as to one’s alcohol preferences or if they had any substance addictions, you CAN ask if the applicant engages in illegal drug use. You are also permitted to mention that a drug screening will be conducted as part of a background check.

Though questions regarding drug use are allowed, an interviewer may NOT ask about arrests or other illegal activities—though the specific rules vary by state.

Questions regarding one’s military discharge are also restricted. You may only mention that a background check will be conducted. Accordingly, you CAN ask if the person will have a difficulty obtaining a security clearance.

Finally, questions regarding one’s driving record may only be discussed if the position requires driving. Thus, most healthcare IT interviews will NOT be able to discuss if a candidate’s driver’s license was suspended.

Financial Circumstances

Questions concerning one’s finances should be an obvious topic to avoid. Employers, however, run into trouble with simple conversations regarding student loans or questions addressing the location of one’s residence. All questions regarding financial circumstances and property ownership must be avoided during an interview. If a candidate is relocating for the position, a prospective employer CAN ask the best method to contact the individual.

Mental and Physical Health

Any discussion of a person’s physical or mental health are restricted during a job interviews. The same is true regarding ones disability status. An employer MAY only discuss the physical job requirements and ask for a physical examination if the job requires a significant amount of manual labor.

Finding the right person for the job is certainly a daunting task. Ease the hiring process by using a top healthcare IT recruiter like 1st Solution USA! Call now or complete our contact form to learn how we can improve your candidate search.