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Five questions recruiters need to stop asking

Published: Friday 7th December 2018

'Illegal' stamped in red ink onto blank paper

‘Illegal’ stamped in red ink onto blank paper

According to research by Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS), 85% of interviewers ask inappropriate and, in many cases, illegal questions, at interview. Most break the law in terms of treating candidates fairly under equality legislation. It’s something that’s recognised by candidates too. One in five thought that, as a result of the questions they’d been asked by a recruiter or recruitment agency that they’d been treated unfairly. Fortunately, the Equality Act of 2010 is there to safeguard candidates against discrimination.

Here are five typical questions interviewers have no right to ask you during the course of an interview if they want to avoid falling foul of law:

Female graduate happily posing outdoorsWhat year did you graduate?

Any questions about age or, as an attempt to determine age are off-limits, according to the Equality Act of 2010. However, discrimination on the basis of age is allowed when it can be objectively justified, for example, by putting an upper age limit on a job where high levels of physical fitness are required, or to sell certain age restricted products, such as alcohol.

Are you physically fit?

While employers clearly can’t discriminate against candidates on the basis of a disability, the Equality Act provides further protection in that, during the application stage, the employer cannot ask about the health of an applicant. This is to encourage fairness and protect employees who have health conditions from being discriminated against at application stage.

Are you in a relationship or married?Engagement ring

Marital or other personal relationship status questions are also disallowed when it comes to job interviews. These have no bearing on a candidate’s ability to carry out the functions of a job and could be construed as an attempt to determine a person’s sexual orientation.

Mother and child holding hands under a play tent

Have you children or are you planning to start a family?

Likewise, the details of your family life, and any child care arrangements should not be queried. These details should have no impact on whether or not you are offered a role at any organisation. In particular, asking if you’re planning to start a family implies that the job may only be offered to someone who is not seeking maternity or paternity leave in the future.

Where is your accent from?Diagram with many speech bubbles

While employers do have a legal obligation to ensure that candidates are eligible to work in the UK before hiring them, it is illegal to ask questions about race, religion or native language. Implying that nationality might affect a candidate’s ability to do the job is a big no-no.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people against discrimination when it comes to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy/motherhood, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation. The problem is that 47% of interviewers who admitted asking these questions simply haven’t had the required training before interviewing staff.

It’s hoped that the Equality Act not only legislates against discrimination in recruitment, but promotes fairness, ethical recruitment practices and an anti-discriminatory culture among recruiters.

At Zoek, we take discrimination is the workplace seriously and will only work with organisations that are equally committed to moral recruitment practices. And, that’s something our clients appreciate too. Right now, we have jobs in Manchester and jobs in London with new organisations that have come to Zoek based on our reputation for promoting fairness in the workplace. Find them at Zoek UK.

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