7 Questions You Should Never Ask In A Job Interview

Image credit: Flickr Commons, National Library of Wales ‘Hoping To Extend Harlech College’ May 18th, 1963

Embarking on an interview process and searching for a new recruit can often be a slightly daunting task. Who can replace your long-term employee who has decided to re-locate? This will be a difficult role to fill. If you have a low staff turnover, you may not be used to interviewing on a regular basis – so need reminding of what is and isn’t acceptable when talking to prospective candidates.

As much as you want to interview them, they are also interviewing you and trying to get an impression of your business. So, it’s important that you ensure that your process is efficient and correct as well as communicating and reflecting the values of your organisation eg friendly, dynamic, professional.

Some of these may seem a little obvious, but if you’re out of practice – they are a gentle reminder.

1. Are You Married?

Employers must not discriminate against anyone because of their “protected characteristics.” This includes whether candidates are married, single or in a civil partnership. They have no reason to disclose this information. As the interviewer, you may be asking innocently, but it could be deemed discriminatory if you’re trying to determine their sexual orientation. These personal details have no bearing on their ability to do the job, so recruitment company Reed’s website recommends candidates answer with: “I like to keep my personal and professional life separate.” Don’t be surprised if you receive this response.

What you can ask:
“Are there any current commitments you can think of which could affect your ability to do this job?”

2. How Old Are You?

Thankfully, this has become a slightly unwise question in most circumstances, but particularly in a job interview. In fact, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age. Of course, candidates need to be over 18 years old to sell certain products or operate or drive machinery, so you are within your rights to check that they are old enough. However, any prodding further on the issue could be deemed to be discrimination. Nor should you ask for their date of birth for your records until after you have made a job offer, as this along with queries about how long they’d like to work before retiring, could be seen as discriminatory.

What you can ask:
“Are you over 18?/the legal age required to do the role?”

3. Do You Have/Do You Want Children?

It is illegal to discriminate against someone if they have children, are pregnant, or are planning to start a family. Again, refrain from trying to ascertain someone’s age to try and work out whether they are likely to start having children. Pretty much all questions about their personal life aren’t relevant to the role and candidates aren’t legally required to answer them.

4. How May Sick Days Did You Take In Your Last Job?

In general, as the interviewer you shouldn’t ask a candidate about their health or disability issues before offering them a job. Sick days in their last role fall into this category. However, you can ask about this subject if you need to determine whether adjustments need to be made to accommodate the candidate. You can ask if this is the case and answer accordingly. Once you have offered them a position, only then can you inquire further about their health, but only if it relates to how well they can perform the job.

What you can ask:
“Do you have any specific needs or requirements to be able to perform this job effectively?”

5. Do You Have Any Previous Criminal Convictions?

For jobs where the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 applies, it is unlawful for an employer to subject a candidate or employee to ‘prejudice’ because of a spent conviction.

Subject to some exceptions, once a conviction is spent, it entitles the person (for jobs where it applies to), in basic terms, to portray themselves as somebody who has never been convicted.

Types of jobs which are exempt from the ROA and which do require spent convictions to be disclosed include:

  • Doctors, dentists, midwives and nurses
  • Solicitors
  • Accountants
  • School based jobs
  • Jobs with social services providers
  • Jobs that involve the supervision or training of people under the age of 18

It is important employers only ever require disclosure for roles that fall within the list of exemptions.

What you can ask (if you’re not able to ask for disclosure):
“Are there any reasons why you may not legally be able to take this position?”

6. What Religion Are You?

This question falls under protected characteristics and prospective candidates don’t have to answer it. Unless of course they’re applying for a religious position like a priest or rabbi. The same goes for race, ethnicity, and the country they are from. It is illegal for you, as an employer not to offer a candidate a job because of any of these things.

What you can ask:
“Can you think of any personal reasons you might not be suitable for this role?

7. Are You A Trade Union Member?

Employers can’t use the fact that a candidate is a member of a trade union for or against them when deciding whether to employ them. This includes not employing someone because they are a member and also insisting someone joins one before you offer them a job.

What you can ask:
“Can you think of any conflicts of interest in your applying for this role?”

If interviewing for a new role is feeling like a daunting task, please get in touch on 01386 751 740 or at [email protected].