Interview questions you should never ask!

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2018 by Adrian Foster2 comments

We all know that interviewing can be a stressful part of the recruitment process for the candidate, but unless you are a professional recruiter it can be equally daunting for the person at the other end of the table. This is because the Job interview will be the best opportunity you will have to find out whether the Job Seeker has the skills and experience that you need and your role is to gather this information without straying into ‘grey’ areas that could leave you open to a costly discrimination claim.

In this blog, I will give a few hints and tips about how you can find out the information you need without falling foul of anti-discrimination legislation.

Let’s start with the basics. You know that you, quite rightly, cannot discriminate on a whole host of factors including race, religious beliefs, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation etc... 

You may ask questions around these areas but they have to be asked in the right way.


Simply by relating the question you ask to the job (i.e. giving a reason for the question) you can elicit the information you need without asking for information you do not need to know.

Don’t ask – What country are you from? Where were you born?
Do ask – Are you eligible to work in The UK

Don’t ask – Do you practice a particular religion? Which religious holidays do you observe?
Do ask – Can you work the scheduled hours for this role?


Age is often a tricky subject and you should avoid questions about a candidate’s specific age unless it is to find out if they are the minimum age required to do the role and I am guessing that is not a question you will be asking too many times.

You must not ask a candidate how many years they see themselves in the role before retirement. You can’t even ask a candidate when they graduated or left school.

Don’t ask – How long until you retire?
Do ask – What are your Career goals?

Don’t ask – When did you graduate?
Do ask – What qualifications do you have relevant to this role?


When interviewing you should be careful with any questions related to illness. Asking a candidate to explain any gaps in their CV due to long-term sick leave is acceptable, but for most jobs asking directly if they have any health conditions is not.

Questioning a person over a disability and whether or not it would affect their ability to do the job is grounds for disability discrimination.

Don’t ask: How many sick days did you take last year?
Do ask: How many unscheduled days of work did you miss last year?

You MAY ask a candidate about any health issues they may have after offering them the job but only to enable you to make any reasonable adjustments to the workplace and you MUST NOT use this information to help you make a decision on their suitability.

In saying this, when recruiting for certain jobs you may ask questions about the health of the candidate.  Please seek further advice on this if required.

Marital Status

Questions about a Candidate’s Marital status are often difficult as well. You cannot ask a candidate if they are thinking about starting a family or if they have Children. Equally, you cannot ask a candidate about Childcare arrangements.

Don’t ask – Do you have or plan to have any Children?
Do ask – Are you available to work longer hours if the project requires?

Don’t ask – What Childcare arrangements do you have in place?
Do ask – The job may require some extra overtime work to enable us to hit targets – is this a problem for you? What days/hours are you available to work?

Don’t ask – Is this your Maiden name?
Do ask – Are any of these references or qualifications under a different name?

The best advice I can give on this is to avoid asking specific questions to someone that you would not be prepared to ask someone of the opposite sex.


Any mention of an applicant’s sexual preference should also be avoided for obvious reasons. I can’t think of anything further to add here apart from querying why anyone would want to ask any questions around this area in the first place.

In conclusion, interviewing is not easy and like anything, it is a skill that comes with time and practice. However, by asking the right questions you can gain the information you need to enable you to make an informed and legal decision on the candidate’s suitability. Happy interviewing!


Adrian Foster is a recruitment specialist with over 20 years experience in Recruitment. Please get in touch if you think we can help with any recruitment needs that you may have. 

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2 comments on "Interview questions you should never ask!"

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