From Honest Recruiter to Law Breaker: Illegal Interview Questions

11th April 2016
Illegal vs Legal

According to a 2015 Career Builder survey, 1 in 5 recruiters have unknowingly asked an illegal question during an interview.

The world of words is highly subjective. Add in to that body language and subconscious actions and you’re in a whole world of potential bother as a recruiter. Social Talent wrote about 10 illegal questions that might seem pretty harmless and, well, legal!

What You Need to Know

The main themes arising from the questions which we’ll list later, are around motherhood, age, location and personal life.

Topics such as these are classed by Gov.uk, as protected characteristics and unless one of these impacts the person’s ability to do their job, you can’t ask about them. An example of this what would be acceptable is asking someone’s age because of the legalities of being able to sell alcohol, i.e being age 18 or over the age of 18.

Another point not mentioned in the Social Talent article concerns trade unions, as you cannot use membership of a trade union as a factor in deciding whether or not to employ someone. You cannot insist that someone join a trade union either.

Finally, the Government website interestingly states that “When recruiting you can treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person because of their disability.” So positive discrimination is acceptable.

The Questions

Here are the 10 seemingly kosher questions that you cannot ask in an interview:

- Have you ever been arrested?

- Are you married?

- What country are you from?

- Do you have any kids/plan on having kids?

- What is your childcare arrangement?

- How old are you?

- How far is your commute?

- How often did you take sick days in your last position?

- When did you graduate from school/college?

- Do you socially drink or smoke?

What We Think

As we mentioned at the start, language and its interpretation are hugely subjective and an innocuous comment on the recruiter side could easily be interpreted as offensive on the candidate side – and be highly illegal. It’s a delicate area, and one that should be studied closely and taken seriously to ensure no slip ups.

At RR, we are 100% REC Compliant and can advise and support you during the recruitment process ensuring that you aren’t inadvertently asking the wrong questions.

'you cannot ask... "How far is your commute?"'