10 questions you can’t ask candidates in an interview

What questions can you ask candidates in an interview, and what questions should you run from?

Interviews can be a bit of a minefield, especially if it’s your first time in the hot seat. If you’re nervous or unprepared, it can turn south as your mouth asks something that’s just not okay. You could upset your candidates, your boss and the law.

We know that you have good intentions, so we’re here to help. This is your guide: a list of the top 10 worst interview questions to ask candidates.

The Equality Act 2010 set out some rules and regulations that everyone must follow, especially interviewers. It laid out several ‘protected characteristics’ which you have to be aware of:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender and sex
  • Marriage and civil partnerships
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sexual orientation

If you phrase your questions in the wrong way you can break this law and face charges. So what questions can you never ask candidates in an interview?

What year did you graduate?

Asking this question might seem harmless but it can really upset some people. By asking your candidates when they graduated, you can figure out a rough idea of their age.

Age is a hot topic in employment because there’s always a stigma attached to it. Younger people can be seen as flaky and older people can be seen as ‘over the hill’.

The candidate’s age doesn’t matter, unless you suspect they are under any minimum age requirements for the role.

Do ask

Are you above the age of 18?

How many sick days did you take last year?

Asking someone about their disability can be tricky, but in some circumstances it is necessary. If you are enquiring about any adjustments you can make to the role to improve the candidate’s comfort and ease of access, you’re in the clear. Any other questions are off limits.

Do ask

Are there any accommodations we can make for you?

What is you gender?

Even if you’re curious it’s best to stay clear of questions related to gender. This is the sort of question that can upset anyone you ask, so try to be careful.

Do ask

Have you ever worked under a different name?

What is you marital status?

This one might be surprising as it can be pre-interview conversation. But even if you see a ring, asking this kind of question is dangerous. It can come off like you’re trying to figure out someone’s gender.

Do you have childcare arrangements?

Some jobs require frequent overtime, relocation, cross-country or international travel, and this can be a huge turn off for people with children. Try to keep your question directed at the job requirements and not the candidate’s home life.

Do ask

This job has overtime requirements, would that fit into your schedule?

Would you be open to relocating?

What is your native language?

Race is a wide umbrella that covers areas like nationality and ethnicity. We don’t have to tell you that bringing up someone’s race or background is bad manners, but we are going to mention that it can be seen as discrimiation.

If the job requires multiple languages you can bring this up carefully. Frame your question around which they are fluent in, but consider keeping all other topics to yourself. Better safe than sued!

Do ask

What languages are you fluent in?

How long have you lived in the UK?

As a recruiter you often have to find out whether someone has the right to work in the UK, but the question has to be phrased properly. It can really hurt feelings if it isnt’t.

Do ask

Are you authorised to work in the UK?

What religion do you practice?

Religion can be a very private part of someone’s life. Most people certainly don’t want to discuss their beliefs with their potential employer. Sometimes religion can affect the availability of some workers – for instance during religious holidays and festivals – but bringing this up can be tricky.

Do ask

Are you available to work weekends?

Do you have any holidays planned this year?

Have you ever been arrested?

Arrested and convicted can seem like synonyms. In the heat of the moment you can pick the wrong word and suddenly offend your candidate. In times like this having a script could save you from making a big mistake.

Do ask

Have you ever been convicted or imprisoned for a crime?

How long would your commute be?

This might be a surprising one, but it’s against the law to ask!

Some people commute for hours to their workplace and some walk to their home office. How long their commute would be isn’t the question that’s important. What’s important is finding out if they can make it to work on time.

Do ask

Could you be at work by 9?

We hope that this guide will help you out in your upcoming interviews.

If you are looking for more interview guidance, take a look at our How to give interview feedback post.

Recruiting someone is a big thing. There are so many rules, regulations and laws you have to follow to do it right. The process from job advert to onboarding can take months, but the team at DigitalGrads are here to help you. We offer a unique recruitment process and basically do all the work for you. So, if you want to make recruitment less of a full-time headache, check out our services.

About post author

Hi, I'm Daisy. I'm using my passion for writing to work with DigitalGrads on their content and social media campaigns.
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