Illegal and Inappropriate Job interview Questions

Discrimination on the basis of race, marital status, age, gender, colour, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, gender reassignment or disability is illegal. Questions that are discriminatory should be very few and far between. However, it is possible that you may be asked a question that is discriminatory, particularly by an inexperienced interviewer or someone who has little understanding of the employment law surrounding selection. The interviewer may or may not be aware that they are asking a question that could be perceived by a candidate as being discriminatory. There are a variety of ways in which you can respond to these types of questions.

You are quite justified to decline to answer the question. Politely say that you do not wish to answer such a question as you feel it is inappropriate and is unsure as to how it is relevant to the role you have applied for. For example, you could say, ‘I am not sure how relevant this is to the position I have applied for and would prefer not to answer that question.

Alternatively, you can respond to the question without referring to its inappropriateness or ignore the inappropriateness and focus on the concern that is behind the question. For example, say, ‘I think what you are asking is… or. Are you trying to establish if…, and select the answer you wish to give.

Whether or not you choose to answer the question, the concern that is likely to remain in your mind will be, ‘Do I want to work in an environment that might subject me to such potentially discriminatory practices?

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If you feel you may have been discriminated against contact the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (www.equalityhumanrights.com) or your local Citizens Advice Bureau for further advice. It is important that you take action promptly as there is a time limit on making a claim against discrimination. The following is a list of questions that could be regarded as illegal or inappropriate together with some suggested responses.

You may have to travel a lot in this role. Will that be an issue for your family?

• Are you asking me if I am able to commit to travelling and being away from my family?

How will you cope with childcare arrangements if you were offered this position?

• Are you asking if I can be relied upon to be punctual and work additional hours if required?

Are you pregnant?

• I am not sure why you are asking this question?

How old are you?

• Are you asking how many years of experience I have?
• Are you asking how many more years I have left to work?

How many more years do you see yourself working for?

• Are you wanting to know how I can be relied upon to work for the next five years? Are you asking me if I am near retirement age?

Are you planning to start a family?

• Are you asking if I am able to work overtime?
• Are you asking if I would have a commitment to this position:

Are you married?

• I am not sure how relevant that is to the role, but if you are trying to establish if I am able to commit to working extra hours or overtime, then the answer is yes.
• Are you asking me if I will be able to commit to the flexible working hours outlined in the job description?
• Are you asking me if I can work additional hours when they are required to get a project finished?

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What religion are you?

• Are you asking me if I require specific requirements to suit my religion?
• Are you asking me if I am able to adapt to the working environment because of my religion?

What country were you born in?

• Are you trying to establish whether or not I have the right to be working in the UK?

Do you have any health issues?

• Are you trying to ascertain if I have any form of disability that I would like to declare?

Where do your parents come from?

• Are you trying to establish my nationality?

I see you have a disability, how do you think that will affect how you do your job?

• I am not sure what you are trying to get at with this question, but I am happy to describe the reasonable adjustments I would require in the workplace if I were offered the job.

How long have you lived in this country?

• Are you trying to establish my nationality? • Are you trying to establish how fluent my English is?
• Are you trying to establish how familiar I am with working practices in the UK?

Do you drink alcohol or use recreational drugs?

• I am not sure of the relevance of this question to this role. However, I can assure you that I do not believe it is appropriate to go to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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What nationality are you?

• Why do you ask?
• Is this for monitoring purposes for equal opportunities?
• Are you asking if I have the right to work in the UK?

What political party do you support?

• I am not sure why you are asking that question, but I prefer to keep my political beliefs between myself and the ballot box.

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?

• I am not sure of the relevance of this question as this role has no financial responsibility.

Are you a member of a trade union?

• I am not sure why you are asking me that particular question, but believe this is a personal matter that each individual has the right to make a choice about

Have you ever been arrested?

• If you are asking if I have any unspent criminal convictions, then, no. I don’t.

How many years has it been since you graduated from college/ university?

• Why do you ask?
• Are you interested in how old I am?

How do you deal with your disability on a day-to-day basis at work?

• I am not sure what you are trying to get at with this question, but I am happy to describe the reasonable adjustments I would require in the workplace if I were offered the job.

Some colleagues you will be working with are much older/ younger than you, is that a problem?

• I enjoy working with all sorts of people.

What sexual orientation are you?

• I am not sure what relevance that has?

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