Whether you’re a multinational organisation hiring dozens of new recruits through the annual graduate food chain, or a small owner-managed business looking to hire just one or two new employees a year, the rules for interviewing the candidates is the same for everyone –keep it legal.
Up until the mid 1970’s it was a case of anything goes, but a number of pieces of legislation introduced since then have sought to remove the possibility of discrimination when interviewing and hiring. If you’re not used to conducting interviews, or do them very infrequently, there’s a chance you may stray off into one of the “grey” areas, so here’s a quick guide to what not to ask and how to keep it legal.
It should be obvious to everyone that you can’t ask “how old are you?”, but there are other, less direct, questions which would also be considered age discriminatory such as “how long before you are expecting to retire?” or “what year did you start school?”. The only time you might require someone of a minimum age is for the sale of certain restricted products, so a simple “are you over 18?” should suffice. There is no legitimate reason to require someone to be of a maximum age.
You may not realise it, but asking someone about where they were born could lead to issues of racial or religious discrimination. If you’re wanting to check if they have the right credentials to work in the UK, don’t ask “where were you born?”, instead simply enquire if they are eligible to work in the UK. And if you require someone to speak English, it cannot be a pre-requisite that it is their first language, so asking what their native language should always be considered irrelevant.
Whilst it may seem like a nice conversational topic for an informal interview, steer away from asking someone if they are married or in a long-term relationship. It is an irrelevant fact when it comes to someone’s ability to do the job, even though some employees traditionally favour “settled” married employees and others prefer “hungry and carefree” singles. Asking about relationship status may also inadvertently lead into questioning a candidate’s sexual orientation which should also cause a red flag in an interview.
This one is simple – don’t ask if someone has children and don’t ask if they are pregnant or planning a family. If you require someone to work long or irregular hours and are concerned about whether or not they have suitable childcare arrangements in place, it’s not your business to know. You can ensure your candidate knows what typical working patterns are required for the role and it is up to them to decide if it is right for them.
When we say gender, we’re not talking “are you male or female?” Rather, using someone’s gender to inadvertently imply they might not be suitable for the role. Examples include “are you happy to manage mostly male employees?” or “are you comfortable working for a female boss?” Just steer clear of these types of questions altogether.
Asking about disability and health (including “how many sick days did you take last year?”) should always be avoided. If someone needs adjustment to a working environment, this can be determined after you’ve already offered them the job, but only if it is relevant to the role.
Avoiding discriminatory interview questions doesn’t have to be a minefield; the key is to remember that the only things relevant to someone’s ability to do a job are their qualifications, skills or experience. It’s your job to assess the candidate’s suitability and provide them with any information they need to know in order to make their own decision about whether they want the job.
Park City have extensive experience of helping clients through the whole recruitment process, from job specifications and interviews, through to candidate selection and employment contracts. We can either run the process with you, or just provide you with advice and expertise to make it run as smoothly as possible. Contact our professional HR team today to find out more.
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