What Can Job Interviewers Ask?

The questions you're asked during a job interview should mostly focus on your experience and qualifications. It also gives you and your prospective employer a chance to get to know one another.

What a job interview shouldn't be is an opportunity for the interviewer to ask lots of probing personal questions. In most cases, it's illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on protected characteristics such as age, race, sexuality, and so on. By extension, it's usually not appropriate to ask about these things in an interview setting.

Sadly, just because it's not allowed doesn't mean that people don't do it. Hyper Recruitment Solutions conducted a survey of 1,000 hiring managers and 1,000 jobseekers, and a stunning 85% of interviewers admitted to asking inappropriate questions in job interviews.

Here's a closer look at some of the subjects that should remain off-limits for interviewers...


Age

Example: What year were you born?

Interviewers are not allowed to ask you your age or date of birth. You also don't have to include this information on your CV if you don't wish to.

55% of the interviewers we surveyed admitted to asking candidates when they were born. 60% stated that they considered this an 'acceptable' question.


Children & Pregnancy

Example: Have you got any plans to start a family?

It's illegal to make hiring decisions based on whether or not the candidate has children and/or plans to have a child in the future. Paid maternity/paternity leave is a right, and employers can't exclude candidates who wish to become parents just because they don't want to grant it. Already being a parent should not be a barrier to getting a job either.

That being said, our survey found that 40% of employers think it's acceptable to ask if a candidate is planning on taking maternity/paternity leave, while 54% find it acceptable to ask whether the candidate has any children already.


Gender & Sexuality

Example: Are you a man or a woman?

Your sexual orientation and gender identity are personal matters that should not have any bearing on your ability to do your job.

In most cases, it is illegal for employers to ask about your sex or your sexuality (although exceptions may be made for positive action schemes, e.g. an initiative to hire more LGBT workers).


Health & Disabilities

Example: Are you physically fit and healthy?

In our survey, 53% of hiring managers admitted to asking the question above. But it's illegal to ask questions about a candidate's health before offering them a job.

Employers in certain industries may require workers to pass a physical exam before starting work. Crucially, though, this should not be part of the recruitment/hiring process - any necessary health checks can only take place once the candidate has been offered the job.


Marital Status & Relationships

Example: Are you in a relationship?

As with gender and sexuality, one's marital status generally has no bearing at all on their suitability for a job. And yet 51% of interviewers we surveyed admitted to asking candidates whether they're married / in a relationship!


Religion

Example: Will you need time off for religious holidays?

It's unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their religious beliefs, so questions about faith should be off-limits at all times during job interviews.

Unfortunately, our survey indicated that just 18% of hiring managers understand that it's illegal to ask questions like 'Will you need time off for religious holidays?' 39% said it was inappropriate, but not illegal, while 43% felt that this question was acceptable.


Where You're From

Example: Where were you born?

Questions like 'Where were you born?' and 'Where's that accent from?' may seem innocuous enough, but again, they're not appropriate for an interview environment. Sadly, a large number of interviewers think these questions are acceptable - for instance, 47% of those surveyed stated that it's acceptable to ask the origin of a candidate's accent.


More useful links from HRS:

Graduate Job Interview

So, you've finally graduated from university and - better still - secured an interview for the dream job that you've been working towards for the last few years. Problem is, you don't really know what to expect or how to prepare yourself for the interview.

Many people think that job interviews are high-pressure situations where a single slip-up can ruin one's chance of success, but with the right preparation, you will be ready for whatever is thrown your way. So don't panic - Hyper Recruitment Solutions are here to help!

Follow our essential graduate interview tips to give yourself the best possible chance of impressing the interviewer and getting the job you want.

Research

  • Learn about the company's history and the work they've done in the past.

  • Find out what the company's goals and values are.

  • Ensure that you understand the role you're applying for (including responsibilities and requirements).

Rehearsing

  • Decide which of your skills and qualities you would like to highlight to the interviewer, and make sure you can prove that you have them (e.g. by mentioning achievements and experiences where you demonstrated those qualities).

  • Find a list of commonly-asked interview questions and write out your own answers in advance.

  • Get someone to ask you questions that you haven't specifically prepared for - this will practice your ability to improvise and bring every answer back to your key skills and qualities.

Appearance

  • Dress smartly and appropriately for the job. If you're struggling to pick an outfit, read our What to Wear guide.

  • Make sure that your clothes are washed, dried and ironed prior to the interview.

  • Ensure that your hair is neat and tidy - get a haircut if necessary.

  • Do not wear excessive make-up or accessories.

Travel

  • Find out where and when the interview will be held.

  • Plan your route and method of travel (walking, driving, or public transport).

  • Set off early and allow plenty of time for delays/traffic.

  • Stay dry! Take a coat and/or umbrella just in case it rains.

Miscellaneous

  • Take an extra copy of your CV so you have the same information in front of you as the interviewer.

  • If necessary, prepare a copy of your certifications and/or examples of past work.

  • Make sure you can provide strong references on request.

We hope these tips will help to put your mind at ease and bring you one step closer to the job of your dreams! If you have any questions or queries regarding your interview, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the HRS team - one of our advisors will be more than happy to help. Good luck!

Further Reading: Why Didn't I Get the Job?

New Year Fireworks

An article recently published on Buzzfeed offered a number of suggestions for job seekers who are hoping to land their 'dream role' in the new year. The tips were fairly wide-ranging, touching on everything from cleaning up your social media accounts to choosing the right interview clothes.

Even so, we believe that we at Hyper Recruitment Solutions can add a few extra tips to the list - if you're serious about getting a new job in 2018, here are 5 more things that you should keep in mind:

1. Ask somebody else to read your CV.

Before you send your CV to any potential employers, give it to a trusted friend or family member and ask them to give it a quick read-through. Your proof-reader will hopefully catch any spelling / grammar mistakes that you failed to spot yourself, but more importantly, they'll be able to tell you whether or not the document is a fair representation of your abilities and experiences. It may just be that you're selling yourself short!

2. Tailor your CV to each job you apply for.

Once you've finished writing your CV, it's easy to just send exactly the same version to every prospective employer. But tweaking your CV each time you send it - tailoring it to the specific role you're applying for - can be a very worthwhile endeavour. You don't have to start from scratch every time you begin a new job application, but you should assess each job description and make sure that your CV is emphasising the right skills and focusing on the most relevant parts of your career history in each case.

3. Eliminate all filler from your cover letter.

When applying for certain jobs, you will be required to accompany your CV with a cover letter that explains why you're applying for the role in question (and what makes you a good fit for it). Your cover letter is a great opportunity to make a glowing first impression, but no matter what you decide to put in this document, it needs to be concise and to-the-point. Once you've written your cover letter, read back over it and make sure that every single sentence has a point - if it doesn't add anything to the picture you're trying to paint, delete it! Employers won't enjoy reading a lot of pointless waffle that wastes their precious time, and a shorter, punchier cover letter will likely make more of an impact anyway.

4. Know how you're getting to the interview.

Showing up late for an interview is almost always a surefire way to not get the job. Once you've been told where you're being interviewed, take the time to plan your journey carefully: will you be walking, driving, or taking public transport? What time will you need to set out in order to arrive on time? Do you have an umbrella in case it rains on the day? Planning is key if you want to be sure of arriving on time (and not looking too dishevelled because you had to rush!).

5. Didn't get the job? Ask for feedback.

Even an unsuccessful job application can be valuable if you're able to learn from it and improve your approach for next time. If a prospective employer tells you that you didn't get the job, thank them for their time and ask them if they would be willing to provide any feedback. Did your answers leave something to be desired? Could you have dressed more appropriately for the interview? Was it simply a question of experience? You can't control every aspect of your job application, but constructive feedback can give you a better idea of what employers are looking for and how to present yourself in the best possible way.

Useful links:

How to prepare for a Job Interview

Now that you've been offered a job interview, it's time to buckle down and prepare for what's ahead.

Many people think they don't need to prepare for a job interview. It's tempting to believe that your qualifications alone will be enough to get you the job, or that the interview is just a way for the employer to get to know you. Though both of these statements are true to an extent, they are certainly not the whole story.

We at Hyper Recruitment Solutions have helped countless candidates to secure their dream jobs, so today we're going to share some of our best tips on how to prepare for a job interview.

The following tips should stand you in very good stead when the time comes to sit down with your potential employer.

Research the company

Researching your potential employer is one of the most important steps when preparing for a job interview. Hopefully, if you've applied for the job, you already know a little bit about the company anyway; nevertheless, read through the company's website, find out what they do, what their values are, their past projects, their future ambitions, and so forth.

The most important things to take note of are as follows:

  • How long has the company been around?
  • How did they get to where they are?
  • Who do they work with?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • What are their company values?
  • What do you like about the company?
This information will also help you to make sure that this is the company you want to be working for.

Google yourself

In much the same way as you've been researching the company, your potential employer will most likely conduct their own research on you. So try to think like the employer. What's the first thing they'll do when they want to find out more about a potential candidate? That's right: Google them!

Google your name and check what comes up. If your Facebook profile shows up, complete with lots of photos from drunken nights out, be sure to check your account's privacy settings. If some unsavoury images of you appear in Google Images, be sure to delete those pictures from the place where you uploaded them.

Likewise, be sure to delete any controversial posts that may have seemed like a funny joke at the time, but could potentially breach company policy if associated with you. You don't want your potential employer to get the wrong opinion of you!

Prepare for the interview questions

Most job interviews come with a standard set of questions. You know the ones: 'what are your weaknesses?', 'where do you see yourself in five years?', 'provide an example of when you lead a team'. A good way to prepare for a job interview is to write out your answers to these questions and revise. If you don't know the standard questions, you should read our blog post about common job interview questions.

A good tip when preparing for these questions is to try and think of unique answers. Your potential employer will most likely ask every candidate these questions, and may therefore have heard many of the same answers over and over again. Think hard about these questions and try to provide an answer that provides your interviewer with an insight into who you are (rather than just another cliché that tells them next to nothing).

Dress sharp

We are often told to not judge a book by its cover, but interviewers only have a limited time with each candidate, and first impressions are incredibly important.

Dressing smart for your job interview not only shows your potential employer that you really care about this job, it can also give you a confidence boost. If you feel like you suit the part and look good, you will feel more at ease during your interview. Confidence is an attractive quality in a situation that usually incites nerves, so prepare for your job interview by making yourself feel more confident.

For more advice on this front, read our blog post about what to wear to a job interview.

Prepare your journey

Our final tip on how to prepare for your job interview is to be on time (early, if possible!) to your interview. If you are late, this is a clear indicator to your potential employer that you don't care enough about the job that's up for grabs.

Plan ahead and prepare your journey. If the company is based somewhere that's not local to you, check your travel times and the traffic rigorously prior to the interview. If you think you may be late, be sure to call ahead and let them know why you will be late. After all, a traffic jam can be forgiven as long as you handle it professionally and reasonably.

Good luck! We hope our tips on how to prepare for a job interview have helped you. If you're still looking for your dream job, you can browse the latest science and technology jobs here.

Job interview questions and answers

So you've secured a job interview - congrats! The next step is to start preparing for the interview questions that you might be asked.

As you may already know, there are a number of typical questions and answers that come up at every interview. Today we're going to look at what these could be and the best way to answer them.

'Tell me about yourself.'

While this may seem like the easiest interview question to answer, if you're caught off-guard it can actually be one of the most difficult. What exactly do employers want to hear when they ask this question? Is it your academic history, your ambitions, your reasons for applying?

A little bit of each topic is perhaps the best way to answer this interview question. Be sure to detail previous academic history, ambitions, and reasons for applying that make you a great fit for the job. Make sure you don't ramble, though, and make sure all of the information is relevant. The employer is trying to understand who you are as a person and how you would fit into the company.

'Why should we hire you?'

You'll find that you get asked this question in most job interviews, so it's an important one to prepare an answer for. Though it may seem like a rather difficult question to answer, the employer is actually just trying to see how you have thought of yourself in relation to the company.

It's valuable to know how your skills suit the job role, but remember, the employer wants to know how you fit into their company specifically. So when it comes to answering this question, be sure to include details of how your skills suit the job role and how you, personally, suit the company.

This interview question gives you a great opportunity to stand out, so make sure your answer is both memorable and concise. For further advice and information on how to best answer this question, read our blog here.

'What do you know about this company?'

This may seem like a bit of a vain interview question from the company's side, but yet again, it's a very important part of many job interviews. Most companies are proud of their history, culture, and ambitions, and they will want to know you value the same things.

To prepare for this interview question, be sure to do extensive research on the company. Look up important things like:

  • When they started
  • Their biggest projects to date
  • Research they've conducted (if applicable)
  • The company's values and brand identity
Not only will these things help you to answer the question, they'll also help you decide if this is actually a job you want.

'Why did you leave your last job?'

This, understandably, is a very common interview question. Most employers want to know what led to you leaving your last company as it will help them to understand what you look for in a job. Honesty is always the best policy, but if (for instance) you had to resign from your last job because you had a falling out with your boss, be tactful about how you word this.

Here's an example: instead of saying 'I left because I hated my last manager', you could say 'I left my job because the company culture didn't feel like a good fit for me'. It's best to always be reasonably respectful of your previous company - you don't want the interviewer to think you'll end up bad-mouthing their company down the line.

'What's your greatest achievement?'

Compared to some of the other questions we've covered today, this is a much nicer one to prepare for. The best way to prepare for this question is to think back through all the things you're proud of. It's best to think of professional achievements, but you can use more general life events too as long as they reflect your suitability for the job.

You can use any awards you've won, successes with clients, big breakthroughs, or even the grade you received at university. You could even use the birth of your child or your marriage if you think this is relevant to the role; for example, if becoming a parent has made you more conscientious, or planning your wedding made you more organised, these are unique answers that will stand out in an employer's mind.

We hope these common interview questions and answers have helped you prepare for your upcoming interview! If you're still looking for jobs, click here to browse the latest science jobs from HRS.

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