When you’re not recruiting candidates day in, day out (like we are), selecting the right questions to ask candidates in an interview can be tricky. If you’re a business doing your own recruitment or even if you’re a candidate looking for a new job, there are certain things that can’t be asked in an interview – there’s also questions that are illegal to ask.
The purpose of a job interview is to determine whether a person is the most suitable candidate for a job. As such, they need to be able to perform the functions of the role and the questions they are asked should reflect that. ‘Questions that seek information beyond what is relevant to the role are not (relevant)’, says Trent Hancock, the Principal Lawyer at employment law firm McDonald Murholme.
What questions should you steer away from?
It’s best to steer away from questions that might cause offence or make the candidate defensive. I was once asked: ‘Why are you better than the other candidates?’ and I answered: ‘I can’t answer that question as I don’t know the other candidates.’ (I didn’t get the job). Similar questions like ‘Why should we give you the job’ or ‘Do you have kids?’ can make a candidate uncomfortable, which might mean they are not in the best position to provide a thoughtful answer. Other questions that should be given a wide berth is: “Where do you live?’ as candidates might be concerned that living too far away from the business could put them at a disadvantage.
What questions are illegal to ask?
Employers cannot legally ‘dig’ for information outside of what is relevant to the role. Examples of questions that legally cannot be asked are:
- Are you in a same-sex relationship?
- How old are you?
- What is your ethnic background?
- What religion are you?
- Are you pregnant or planning to start a family?
- Who do you vote for?
- Do you have a physical or mental disability?
For more information on this, Section 107 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 states that ‘a person must not request or require another person to supply information that could be used by the first person to form the basis of discrimination against the other person’.
An exception to this is if the information requested is reasonably required for a non-discriminatory purpose. For example, if a person was applying for a role that required heavy lifting, it would be lawful for you to ask about a physical disability insofar as it affected the candidate’s ability to perform heavy lifting,
So…what questions should you ask a candidate?
Most of your questions should be aimed towards determining which candidate is best suited to performing the functions of the role. It is also a good idea to screen for the right cultural/values fit for your organisation. Understanding how a candidate has behaved in certain previous situations is a good way to do this. Example questions might be: ‘How did you feel about your last supervisor?’ Not only does the response provide some information about the relationship between the candidate and their manager, but also how best they like to be managed.
Another question, similar to this is: ‘How would you handle a situation where you didn’t get along with someone in the office.’ This is a terrific question to better understand how your candidate puts problem-solving skills into practice, how they deal in social situations in which they might not be comfortable and if they can answer the question in a non-hostile way.