It is perfectly understandable that companies want to use a job interview to find out as much as they can about the applicant. Interviews give the chance to find out whether or not jobseekers have the skills and qualities that the job needs. However, there are some interview questions that should not be asked. Whilst asking a question in itself is not illegal, asking the wrong types of question can put employers on the wrong side of workplace discrimination law.
Job interview questions tend to stick to a fairly uniform pattern. However, sometimes you might be thrown the odd tricky question. However, HR professionals need to be very careful about asking some questions. This is because they can break Discrimination Laws.
Most jobseekers would be able to recognise a discriminatory question. But there are often ‘grey’ areas and questions within a job interview that may seem harmless, yet are, in fact, discriminatory and, therefore, illegal.
What Questions Should not be asked in an Interview?
There are questions about several areas that might leave an employer open to a claim of discrimination during the job interview process. Some might seem relatively harmless, but they must be avoided.
Interviewers should not ask…
Questions About Place of Birth, Ethnicity and Religion
Employers are legally entitled to ask at a job interview if you have the correct paperwork to legally work in the UK. They can also ask you to provide evidence of this.
They’’re not entitled to probe into your personal history surrounding your specific place of birth. For example, say you had a unusual surname.– It would be improper of employers to look at your CV and see the surnames such as Ali, Khan, Kowalski or Hoffmann, and to ask in which country you were born. This could be seen as a company hiring (or not hiring) staff on the grounds of nationality, race or ethnic background.
It is legal for ethnic background to be asked for on an application form. The reason for this is strictly for monitoring purposes, and is usually included separately from the main application form. However, this cannot be brought up in relation to job interview questions.
Additionally, an interviewer should never ask any job applicant about their religion or religious background.
Questions About Marital Status, Children and Sexuality
Interviewers should not ask a person’s marital status, about children they may have, or their sexuality. All could be grounds for discrimination.
For example, because companies might be seen to view a person being married favourably because they view a married applicant as being more stable. They might also view them unfavourably as they may feel a single person would have more time to devote to the job.
Similarly, questions about children should be avoided. It also should go without saying that any questions about a person’s sexuality are absolutely off limits.
Questions About Age
With new Age Discrimination laws having been introduced which affect all jobs, you should not be asking any questions about age in a job interview.
The exception would be establishing that a person meets the required minimum age to do the job,A prime example of what not to say to an applicant would be to ask of, say, a 60-year old, “And how many more years do you see yourself in the workforce?” That would be discriminatory.
Questions About Disability and Illness
As a general interview guide, interviewers need to tread carefully when asking about illnesses and long term disabilities.
Asking you to explain a significant amount of time off sick from any previous jobs would be perfectly fine. However, questioning a person over a disability and probing whether or not that would affect their ability to do the job? That’s a big no, and would be grounds for Disability Discrimination.
Questions About Lifestyle Choices
It’s also illegal at interviews for employers to ask jobseekers questions relating to lifestyle choices. For example, about their consumption of alcohol, whether they smoke or use recreational drugs.
A company can set out rules regarding the use of these kinds of substances. They may state what it is and is not permitted at work within the staff handbook. However, what an employee does outside of work and work time is not the company’’s business. Therefore, no questions can be asked about it at interview.
Questions About Criminal Records
Interviewers can’t ask anything related to any arrests or convictions. For certain jobs, they are entitled to run a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) criminal background check on you prior to interview.
However, any findings from criminal record checks should never form part of their interview techniques.
Questions About Memberships
Questions about membership or affiliations with any organisations should also not be asked at interviews. The exception is if they are related to any problem they might foresee about time commitments. If these would prevent you doing the job, they may be seen as relevant.
Querstions About Height & Weight
Questions about height and weight are also discriminatory. The exception is if the job is exempt in terms of it being acceptable to have a certain minimum height requirement.
Have problems with job interview questions you’ve been subject to, and have reason to believe you have been unfairly treated at interview? You should seek advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They can help to determine whether or not a company’s job interview techniques have been unlawful.