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.


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