A job interview is usually an important step in hiring a new staff member. You want to get to know the candidate, and make sure they’ll be suitable for the role. But some questions are illegal, as they can lead to discrimination.
The questions you ask should relate only to the requirements of the position being interviewed for. In general, it is illegal to ask candidates about their age, gender, ethnicity or sexuality. These factors are not relevant to the candidates’ ability to perform the job.
It is also unlawful to discriminate against a prospective employee on the basis of their physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. Any questions around these factors are potentially discriminatory and illegal, and best avoided. Candidates may be able to take legal action against you if they believe they have been discriminated against based on the questions you ask.
Here are four questions that could you get you in trouble, in what you should ask instead.
1. How old are you?
A candidates’ age is not usually relevant to a role and can be used to discriminate against a person who is considered too old or too young. If age is relevant to role, such as or proof of licence to drive a delivery van or requiring proof of age to work in a licensed venue, then it is legitimate.
What to do instead?
If documents such as a licence that include a person’s age are required, it’s best practice to ask for these after an offer of employment has been made, or make an offer that is conditional on providing the documents. This will avoid any allegation of discrimination.
2. How do you balance work and family?
Family responsibilities are not relevant to the recruitment process. It’s illegal to discriminate against a candidate based on their family status.
What to ask instead?
“Are you able to able to work the following hours…”
3. Are you currently working?
It is illegal to discriminate against a candidate because they are employed, unemployed, or receiving benefits. However, you may need to know if a candidate is required to give notice to their current employer before they can start work.
What to ask instead?
“When can you start?”
4. Have you had any past injuries/illnesses?
This question is illegal as it relates to disability, which is a protected attribute. However, the answer may be relevant if injury or illness would directly relate to the candidate’s ability to perform the job.
What to ask instead:
“Do you have any medical conditions that would mean you are unable to lift heavy items?” or “Is there any reason you might not be able to complete the duties required for this role?”