17 questions not to ask during an interview

09 February 2018

Your interview process is a pivotal part of building a winning workforce, so it’s only natural you want to get the most out of both your and the candidate’s time.

But, that said, it’s important to remember there are boundaries. Under the Equality Act 2010, every single candidate has the right to not be discriminated against, harassed or victimised because of their:

  • Protected characteristics;
  • Perceived protected characteristics; or
  • Association with someone who has a protected characteristic.

Protected characteristics include: age; disability; marital status or civil partnership; gender reassignment; race – including colour; nationality or ethnic origin; religion; gender; sexual orientation; and pregnancy and/or maternity leave.

And remember, the interview process is all about selling your business, and delving into candidates’ behavioural, cultural and technical skills.

Interview no-no’s

So, here are 17 examples of what you can’t ask a candidate during an interview…

1. In what year did you finish high school?

As this can be used to work out the candidate’s age, it can amount to age discrimination.

2. At what age did you start your first job?

As with the above, this can lead to getting a rough idea of their age, which can open you up to age discrimination claims.

3. What childcare arrangements do you have in place for while you’re at work?

Because, generally, more women are the main carers for children than men, this could fall under gender discrimination.

4. Are you pregnant?

You can’t not hire somebody because they’re expecting. If you ask this question and the candidate doesn’t get the job, they could assume it’s because they said they’re pregnant.

5. When do you hope to retire?

This could be construed as age discrimination. You can’t not recruit an older candidate on the basis of their age.

6. Have you ever been arrested?

Firstly, an arrest doesn’t always amount to a conviction. Secondly, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, you can only take convictions into consideration if they are relevant to the job and it’s illegal to discriminate against somebody because of their spent convictions.

You should only ask about arrests if this is a justifiable requirement of the role, for example, if the candidate would be doing a regulated activity. That said, if this were the case, this would (or should!) have been disclosed in their application form – especially if it’s in a care setting.

7. Have you ever suffered a workplace injury?

Although not illegal, this would be bad practice. Injuries sustained in previous positions have no relevance to the job the candidate’s applying for.

8. Do you have a disability?

By asking this question, you could be implying that their response will inform your decision, which could open you up to disability discrimination claims.

9. Have you ever suffered from a mental health condition?

Mental health falls under the disability bracket of protected characteristics so, as with the above, you could leave yourself open to disability discrimination claims.

10. What’s the name of your emergency contact?

For starters, why would you need to know this at the interview stage? Asking this question could be interpreted as a breach of protected characteristics, like marital status or sexual orientation.

11. What’s your relationship status?

Again, what’s the relevance? In addition, you’d be going against the ‘marital status or civil partnership’ clause of their protected characteristics.

12. Are you religious?

This is another no go, and could lead to religious discrimination claims. Also, how is it relevant to the role they could be performing?

13. Where were you originally born?

For starters, the candidate could be offended that you’ve concluded they weren’t originally born in the UK. For seconds, you could leave yourself open to allegations of race discrimination.

14. Do you own your own home?

What does their status on the property ladder have to do with their career? Although not illegal, it’s just plain irrelevant.

15. How many sickness days did you take in your last job?

Candidates could come to the conclusion that you’ve not hired them due to the number of sickness days they had in their last place. The potential backlash? Claims of disability discrimination.

16. Are you a member of any trade unions?

It’s against the law to refuse an individual employment because they are, or are not, a member of a trade union, or to discriminate a candidate based on which, if any, trade unions they’re members of.

It’s also unlawful to refuse to offer employment because an individual is unwilling to join, or to leave, a trade union, or because they’re unwilling to make payments in the event of not being a union member

17. The employee who previously held this role was a male/female, how do you think you’ll compare?

Aside from being rather rude, you could leave yourself subject to sex discrimination claims.

How to conduct a killer interview

When it comes to recruitment, we know what we’re talking about. With everything from job descriptions and interview questions, to making offers and checking references, we’re behind you every step of the way.

Get in touch with our HR & Employment Law experts on 0345 844 1111 or hello@citation.co.uk to see how we can help propel your business to the next level.

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