What can you actually ask in interviews? It seems that nowadays you only have to breathe for somebody to be offended. In a professional environment such as an interview there are generally topics and questions that you have to either entirely avoid or consider how to approach before discussing.
Many of the questions that employers shouldn’t ask in an interview are generally based on discriminatory grounds.
Interviews are designed to determine whether a job seeker is or has the potential to be skilled enough to do the job in hand. A hiring decision must not be based on whether an interviewee has previous criminal convictions or is a different religion to you.
1. How old are you?
This may sound innocent enough but there are very few instances where an employer needs to ask a job seeker’s age. Employers are strictly prohibited from discriminating against job seekers or employees on the basis of age.
It is within an employer’s rights to ask for the job seeker’s date of birth during the screening process but asking for a job seeker’s specific age is seen as highly controversial and discriminatory, especially during the interview process.
Some employers need to know if the job seeker is over 18 to legally sell or operate certain products or appliances i.e. alcohol, machinery. In this instance, a less discriminatory and more appropriate question you should ask is ‘Are you over 18 years old?’.
2. What is the nature of any disabilities you have and how severe are they?
Disabilities can be a somewhat taboo subject and can on the odd occasion physically or mentally restrict an individual from completing a job. Knowing the nature of the disability and how severe it is isn’t information you need to know.
If a disability is apparent, a potential employer can ask if they will be able to carry out the necessary tasks and perform them well and safely. With this approach you show concern for that person’s safety and not discriminating them based on their disability.
3. Will you need personal time off for particular religious holidays?
This question instantly comes across as discriminatory. However as there is no right that guarantees employees time off to attend religious services, employees may take this time out of their annual leave. If this is the case, this question is irrelevant as they are entitled to do as they wish with their time off.
Almost every employer must offer 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. This is known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave. Employers are entitled to include bank holidays as part of statutory annual leave. What an employee chooses to do with their time off is none of the employer’s business. Therefore an employer or interviewer has no right to ask if religious holidays are a reason for having time off. This cannot be asked during the initial stages or even once a job seeker has started.
4. Have you experienced any serious illnesses in the past year
The motive for this question could be to gauge the reliability of the job seeker, if they are likely to need time off, or maybe even for company insurance purposes. Either way, you should not be biased or decide not to hire an individual based on a medical condition.
Do they have the skills, experience and ability to do the job in hand? That is what you need to base your hiring choices on.
5. What is your relationship/marital status?
Simply put, you do not need to know this information purely because it has no effect on the performance of the job.
Many of these questions align with a bit of common sense, however it is good to know some specific questions you shouldn’t ask, and if applicable, understand more appropriate alternatives.