Q. I am interviewing a number of new candidates. What areas of questioning should I avoid and why?
A. Asking questions is an integral part of any interview and allows employers to get a sense of an applicant’s experience and character.
However, it is important that these questions remain appropriate and relate to the role. With this in mind, there are several areas of questioning that should be avoided due to the risks associated with them.
Employers should be aware that some lines of questioning can lead to claims of discrimination.
Therefore, bosses must not ask questions that relate or allude to any protected characteristics that are listed in the Equality Act 2010. This means questions surrounding things such as an individual’s sexuality or religious views should be avoided.
Failure to do so could leave employers open to claims of discrimination. If the role is not offered to the person in question, they may conclude that it was due to the responses given.
Although disability and race are also protected characteristics under the Act it may be appropriate to ask questions on these topics under certain circumstances.
When doing so, employers should tread carefully and ensure questions only relate to the individual’s ability to undertake the role.
For example, it would be acceptable to ask questions to determine an individual’s right to work in the UK. However, all job applicants must be asked to produce evidence of the right to work in this country, not just those who are perceived not to be from the UK.
Similarly, questions about health and physical ability are permitted where a certain level of fitness, for example, is intrinsic to the performance of the role.
Employers should also avoid questions on the topics of parenthood or childcare responsibilities.
This is particularly important given that two separate studies have recently revealed 46 per cent of employers believed it was reasonable to ask a female applicant if they had small children, while 29 per cent of bosses claimed they would reject applications from those with young children.
While it is necessary to ask questions about a previous role to gauge the individual’s level of experience, employers are advised to avoid asking about previous salaries and using these responses to tailor individual wage offers.
Although not prohibited by law, it has been suggested that asking female employees about their earnings in previous jobs may actually perpetuate the existence of the gender pay gap.
Getting the right balance during interview questions is far from easy and is an often overlooked aspect of the hiring process. As a rule of thumb, employers should always review questions beforehand and ask themselves if they are clearly relevant to the job.
Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula