Discriminatory job interview questions

The purpose of inviting someone to an interview is to obtain additional information; however, there are some questions that should never be asked in an interview situation, as they could be considered discriminatory. Here we look at questions you should never ask in a job interview, and some things you are entitled to know as a potential employer.

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According to the government, discrimination in recruitment can begin from the moment you place the job advert. This is because there are some words and phrases within the context of a job advertisement that could be considered discriminatory, either impliedly or explicitly. One example of this is asking for a number of years’ experience; unless this is a pre-requisite of the job, it potentially discriminates against younger candidates.

Disability and age

Asking questions about disabilities should be avoided. While you are entitled to ask about sickness absence in previous jobs, questioning how someone’s disability would affect their ability to do the job would be discriminatory. Likewise, questions about age are dangerous. You should avoid mentioning anything relating to age in a job interview situation beyond whether the person meets the minimum age requirement.

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Lifestyle and background

Questions regarding sexual preference, marital status or children should be avoided, as all are potentially discriminatory, as are questions about whether someone smokes or drinks alcohol. While the latter may be unacceptable at work, what people choose to do outside the workplace is their own business.

With regard to ethnicity, religion and place of birth, questions at interview should be limited to whether the person has the right to remain and work in the UK. No questions should be asked regarding race, religion or place of birth.

For some roles, a potential employer may need to run a basic DBS check prior to interview. These basic DBS checks can be arranged at Care check and other similar providers; however, the results of a basic DBS check cannot form part of the interview process

The best thing to do to avoid being accused of discrimination is to always err on the side of caution. If you think something might be a discriminatory question, it will always be best to avoid it. It is possible to make sure you get the right person for the job without having to resort to discrimination of any sort.