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Interview Questions Job Seekers Shouldn’t Be Asked

Published: Friday 24th July 2015

Male candidate being interviewed by panel

As a recruiter you probably know what not to ask candidates during an interview. Or don’t you?

Most recruiters will understand that asking someone about their plans to start a family is out of bounds, but did you realise that questions about health or disabilities are banned too before a job offer is made?

After an offer of employment has been made it is legal to enquire whether there are any health obstacles to a person carrying out the job. However, it is illegal to enquire how many sick days a person has had off in the last year and a medical report cannot be requested without the knowledge and consent of the candidate.

We know that social media accounts are used widely to find out about people applying for positions, but it was reported recently how some employers in America are asking candidates to provide passwords for their personal Facebook pages or other social media they use, leading to Facebook threatening legal action.

If this happened in the UK the companies responsible would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Hirers need to know what they can and cannot do so here are some other interview questions you may not know are illegal:

How Old Someone Is – It’s OK to state that applicants must be over 18 but it’s not legal to ask a person’s age directly as the law prevents anyone over the age of 40 being discriminated on the basis of age. Similarly, ‘when do you plan to retire?’ or ‘when did you graduate?’ are no-nos too.

Place Of Birth – While interviewers are entitled to ask about whether a person is legally allowed to work in the UK and to request the necessary documentation, it is illegal to ask about a person’s birthplace. To enquire which country someone was born in could be construed as a company hiring (or not) on grounds of nationality.

Religious Affiliation – On no account should an interviewer enquire about a job seeker’s religious affiliation. Similarly, a person’s sexuality is not a matter for interviewers’ questions.

Lifestyle Choices – Whether it’s about alcohol, drugs or whether someone smokes, what an employee does outside work and work time is not the company’s business and, therefore, no questions can be asked about that at interview.

Whether Someone Is Married – Even asking if someone is engaged is not allowed as it falls under pregnancy discrimination laws.

Whether A Person Has Ever Been Arrested – Asking whether someone has ever been convicted of a crime is acceptable and in many cases disclosure is mandatory but asking about arrests is not legal. You are, however, allowed to research online for any records of arrest although bear in mind that arrests don’t necessarily lead to conviction of a crime.

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