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What Can’t I Ask a Candidate During an Interview?

There are certain things you should and should not ask a prospective candidate during the interview process. It can be a bit tricky making sure that you stay within the law and minimise risk to your company, especially if you’ve built up a friendly rapport with the potential new hire.

Employment Tribunal Or Interview

So what should you not ask about when interviewing candidates? Well anything that implies that you are making a judgement on a candidate’s suitability for a job based on a protected characteristic is out of bounds. This includes anything about:

Interviewers should be careful around any questions related to illness. Asking a candidate to explain any gaps in their CV due to long term sick leave is acceptable, but asking directly if they have any health conditions is not other than for specific reasons which are prescribed by the Equality Act 2010.

Steer clear of any questions that reference a candidate’s age. You should certainly ask about their ability to handle the challenges of the role, but never imply that their age may affect this.

You should avoid any questions regarding a candidate’s birthplace, background or religious affiliation. If an applicant has an unusual name, don’t ask about its origin, as the answer could possibly be grounds for a claim of discrimination in the event that the candidate alleges that they were not offered the role based on their response to this question.

Whilst asking questions about someone’s children is usually just making conversation, it is not appropriate in an interview setting. You should not ask a candidate if they are planning a family, if they are pregnant or if they have any childcare arrangements. This also applies to questions about marital status, which could be grounds for discrimination, as some employers may believe that married employees are more stable, or single people may have more time to devote to the job.

Any mention of an applicant’s sexual preference should always be avoided.

It is advisable to avoid gender specific questions, and you should not imply that one gender is better at the job than the other.

A spent criminal conviction is not to be discussed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. If you need to know if someone has a criminal history then, in some circumstances (depending upon the job that the person is interviewing for), you may ask for a DBS check, formerly a CRB check, but this must not affect the interview process in any way.

Anti-discrimination legislation can seem really complicated but it doesn’t have to affect the interview process. If you plan the interview carefully, and ask the same questions of every candidate, then you should be well on your way to treating everyone fairly.

If you are facing a potential discrimination case and need legal advice, or just would like more information about the legal aspects of hiring staff, please contact our team of employment solicitors at Slater and Gordon. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will call you back.

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