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Interviewing isn’t easy. It takes skills, experience and real people skills. If you’re a recruiter or work in HR, then these are attributes you should possess, but there are legal considerations to take into account too, which is where non-recruitment personnel, or small business owners who don’t hire regularly, sometimes get it wrong.
So it’s important to know the rules before interviewing. Say the wrong thing to a candidate during interview and you could be walking on very thin ice, due to discriminatory legislation that forbids employers asking certain interview questions regarding what’s known as ‘protected characteristics’
Here are the top five interview questions to avoid:
Were you born in the UK?
While employers are legally obliged to ensure someone is eligible to work in the UK, this needs to be clarified on the job application. During the interview, you have to be careful when asking about origin or place of birth. For instance, if someone has an unusual name, don’t ask where it comes from.
Likewise, steer clear of any questions regarding religion or ethnicity. Again, it is legal to enquire about ethnic background on a job application form, but this is usually confidential information for monitoring reasons only. Instead, simply confirm that they can work when the role requires. Don’t, under any circumstances, ask what days they might be absent for religious holidays.
Are you married?
Any questions about marital status, children or plans to have a family are a strict no-no. Not only might this imply that you’re attempting to discover whether a woman might require maternity leave in the near future, you’re could be using this information to determine sexual orientation.
Do you have a criminal record?
If someone has spent time in jail or been convicted of an criminal offence, once that sentence, or penalties imposed as a result of that conviction are fulfilled, then a candidate shouldn’t have to reveal the details. Of course, for certain roles, such as working with children, criminal records checks or police vetting can be carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), but these must be carried out before the interview stage.
Do you have a disability
You can only ask about health or any disabilities if the requirements of the job can’t be met with ‘reasonable adjustments’, such as making physical changes to the workplace to assist someone in a wheelchair.
What age are you?
Age should only be queried on an application form (or separate monitoring form) in order to ensure that the candidate is of a legal working age to perform the duties required in the role. An example might be hiring someone to sell alcohol, in the UK, candidates need to be over 18.
To avoid falling foul of the law, make a full list of interview questions you want to ask the candidate before examining them to see if they contravene the rules in any way. If you feel they do, consider rephrasing the question. For example, instead of asking: ‘Is English your first language?’ ask ‘What languages are you fluent in?’
The Equal Opportunities Commission has to address around 20,000 discrimination every year and the penalties can be severe for employers found guilty. Do your homework before interviewing and make sure you’re not one.
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