Job Interview Questions You Shouldn’t Ask

Many of us are unaware that there are job interview questions you shouldn’t ask, legally.
As an employer and interviewer, it’s crucial that you understand parts of Employment Law. You need to know your interviewees rights. Job interviews can be a stressful situation at the best of times. Attempting to articulate whilst under pressure is difficult even if you are naturally a confident person. However, asking inappropriate and illegal questions, could be disastrous for you and your company. Even if it’s the wording of the question that has made them illegal rather than it was your intention. If an interviewee feels that you have asked inappropriate questions and they haven’t been offered the job, you may find yourself facing a claim for discrimination.
Here are 9 interview questions that are illegal under existing employments laws: –

  1. How old are you?

Perhaps the most common of the job interview questions you shouldn’t ask that does get asked. Although you may keen to determine your candidate’s age, the person conducting the interview doesn’t have the right to directly or indirectly ask a candidate their age during the process. As an employer you can only reference age if it is to guarantee that the candidate is old enough to carry out the required role. For example, if you’re recruiting someone to drive a bus.

  1. Are you married?

There is a term in employment law called pregnancy discrimination. This has been created to prevent employers from treating mothers or female applicants unfairly. This prohibits you as an employer from attempting to solicit any information concerning a candidate’s family plans. This includes marriage, engagement and child planning. While this is a long-standing pillar of employment law, the issue with this question is that it can be posed in casual conversation. Therefore you must be mindful that although you may be curious to ask indirectly an interviewees marital status or personal lifestyle or family status, you could well be rebuffed with an uncomfortable response.

  1. What is your sexual orientation?

There are fundamental discrimination laws that prohibit employers from asking any questions relating to sexual orientation. It’s highly likely that a candidate’s sexuality has no relevance on their suitability for any position of employment. Any hiring manager who quizzes someone’s sexuality is likely to be discriminatory in content. As the employer you could find yourself caught in a tribunal claim.

  1. Can we have your social media login details?

Back in 2012, there were a number of employers who were reported for asking interviewees to hand over their private social media login details. Many refused, although some parted with their details in a bid to secure employment. Employers can conduct independent searches of public social media profiles. However, they have no right to ask employees to hand over their private details.

  1. What country are you from?

Unless nationality is a genuine requirement for a job e.g. a Chinese national to work in Chinese restaurant. It is illegal to ask this question on the basis that it involves your national origin, which has no relevance to the person’s capability to do the job. When choosing a new employee, it is their qualifications and experience rather than their background that determines their viability as a candidate. It is important to guard against asking this question even from basic curiosity in general conversation. This can alert the candidate to potential inappropriate questions. However, if worded correctly an employer is entitled to check on an applicant’s eligibility to work in a specific country.

  1. Do you like to drink socially?

This is a bizarre job interview question, and it is difficult to understand what relevance it has in a professional setting. If you are working in an industry where drinking is not permitted on the grounds of safety you might wish to be clear with candidates what your company’s stance is on drinking alcohol during the day or coming into work under the influence. It’s doubtful this would be adequately covered by asking such a vague question at interview.

     7. What is your religion?

Along with job interview questions relating to sexual orientation, this is one of the worst questions that an employer can ask during an interview. There is sometimes a clear motivation for employers to gather this information. For instance, to anticipate any scheduling or holiday issues that may relate to an employee’s faith. There is a more appropriate way to go about achieving this.
It does not involve asking or discussing their religious orientation. Instead, employers can ask if there are any days or periods during which you are unavailable for work. As this relates to a specific schedule and the operating hours of the company in question. It is worth noting that asking a question about religion may be legitimate if, for example, you are a faith based organisation and you wish to employ people of that faith. Ordinarily this would be more appropriately dealt with in the advert for the job, rather than waiting until the interview.

  1. How did you get that scar or physical abnormality?

This may not apply to everyone, but it is a deeply personal and insensitive question that has no merit in an interview or professional situation. The fact that this question is illegal also offers an insight into the depth of the Disability Discrimination Act. They not only prohibit discrimination against individuals with a physical disability, but they also protect those who are ‘regarded as disabled’ due to a scar or physical abnormality.

  1. How do you feel about supervising a team of women (or men)?

The UK has stringent gender equality acts, which serve a clear purpose in the typical workplace. It is illegal for employers to ask any direct questions that relate to gender. Or make assumptions based on perceived differences between male and female candidates. This means that hiring managers cannot ask candidates how they feel about managing or working with a gender specific team. This forces candidates to potentially make comments that are either presumptuous or potentially offensive to either men or women.

What to do Next

If you want to find out more about job interview questions you shouldn’t ask, or need help designing effective, appropriate interview questions give us a call now on 01706 565332. We can help you.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.

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