Top Tips to Avoid Illegal or Inappropriate Interview Questions

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Most employers understand that they are no longer able to ask questions at interview that are obviously discriminatory. However, when you’re trying to put the candidate at ease and build rapport, it is easy to innocently “slip up” and stray into an area that you may think is harmless but could potentially be illegal and leave you open to a potential claim from the candidate.

So here are our top tips to keep you safe…..
  • Plan the interview – write down the questions you are going to ask and ask each interviewee the same questions. There will almost certainly be individual questions that you want to ask but the bulk of the interview will follow your pre-prepared plan.
  • One of the first questions I ask at any interview to get a feel for how much information a candidate is likely to divulge is: Tell me about yourself.
  • Don’t ask questions about a candidate’s birthplace, background or anything to do with religion. If they have an unusual or foreign-sounding surname, don’t ask about its origin as the answer could potentially be grounds for discrimination. The sort of questions you could ask are:
    • Are you eligible to work in the UK?
    • We require fluency in other languages. What languages are you fluent in?
    • This role requires you to work seven days of the week on a rota – are you available to work on all seven days? [If a candidate observes a specific religion, there may be days of the week when they would be unable to go onto a rota.
  • It is common practice to ask someone if they have a family when making conversation but this is not appropriate in an interview. Don’t ask them about their marital status, what their plans are for starting a family, if they are pregnant or about their childcare arrangements. You could ask:
    • Are you available to work overtime if needed?
    • We do sometimes need some overtime work at short notice. Would this be a problem for you?
    • Would you be able to travel as part of your role?
    • Are any of your qualifications or references under a different surname?
    • What are your long-term career goals?
  • Questions about gender or age are a definite no, no. You can ask a candidate about their ability to carry out a particular requirement of a role but never suggest that their gender or age could make a difference to their being able to do this. Ask questions like:
    • What qualities can you bring to this role?
    • Tell me about any previous man-management experience and some of the challenges you faced.
  • You must never ask about health conditions or disability as this could be grounds for a disability discrimination claim.
  • Avoid questions about an individual’s lifestyle choices such as whether they smoke or how much alcohol they consume. Also avoid questions about political affiliations or memberships of group such as participation as a Reservist. You could ask:
    • Are you a member of any professional groups that might be relevant to the role?
    • Do you have any commitments that may require extensive time away from work?
  • Avoid questions about height or weight unless you have specific minimum or maximum requirements for a particular role.


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