Every recruiter knows how important it is to have a hiring process that is open, honest and fair. Most interview questions are aiming to tease out bits of key information about a candidate’s skills, personality and overall suitability for the role, but some questions are a total minefield for discrimination and legal issues.
The Equality Act 2010 sets out nine characteristics which are protected by law: sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, disability, age, and religion or belief. As an employer, you have a duty to actively eliminate discrimination, promote equal opportunities, and encourage positive relationships between people with these protected characteristics – this covers every stage of your hiring process, from job advertising, to interviewing, to welcoming new starters into the workplace.
Though your intentions may be pure, by broaching certain subjects in an interview you may be breaking the law, not to mention making the candidate feel super uncomfortable and creating a negative impression of your company – though there’s a long list of interview questions you should avoid, we’ve rounded up five common ones to steer clear of.
Sometimes a candidate’s age is obvious from their CV, by looking at the dates they were at school or university. You may be curious about a candidate’s age to see if they’d fit in well with the rest of the team – if you’ve got an office full of millennials and the person you’re interviewing is clearly closer to retirement age, you may be concerned that they won’t gel or feel comfortable with their co-workers. But there’s nothing to say that the team dynamic won’t work – if anything, having a diverse workforce brings new perspectives and keeps work feeling fresh. Always keep in mind that you’re judging each candidate on their ability to do the role rather than any other factors.
If a criminal sentence has been served, a candidate is under no obligation to disclose this to an employer. For roles working with children, in educational institutions, or in the health and care sectors, DBS checks (formerly CRB) are essential – these formal checks should be carried out before a candidate is interviewed, so you won’t need to tackle it during an interview.
Any questions around the subject of marital or family status could be considered discriminatory, so keep well away! Having children or being married does not have any impact on a person’s performance or capabilities at work; if you start sniffing around the subject, especially in the case of female candidates, it could land you in seriously hot water if you’re put off from hiring them because they may get pregnant and go on maternity leave.
Asking about marital status could also suggest a candidate’s sexual orientation, which is another protected characteristic to avoid in interviews.
Questions regarding race, religion and nationality are a big no-no! All you need to know is whether someone is eligible to work in the UK and has an appropriate level of written and verbal communication to be able to do the job.
This could point to discrimination regarding health and disabilities. Of course, there are certain roles where having a disability or ongoing health issues may require additional support or facilities within a workplace. There are certain situations where a disability may rule a candidate out, if it’s purely on the basis of them being physically unable to carry out a role safely and effectively, but you need to demonstrate that you’re an equal opportunities employer and do as much as possible to accommodate people regardless of disabilities.
Being a great interviewer is about asking appropriate questions that get the information you need about candidate’s skills and abilities, whilst also being legal and fair. But it’s also about being able to put candidate’s at ease and give them a positive experience at every stage of hiring. Make sure you’re up-to-date with what you’re legally allowed to ask candidates, to avoid any issues regarding discrimination and bias, and also ensure you’re giving off the right impression of your brand – as an inclusive, welcoming business that champions equality and diversity in the workplace.