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Acceptable & Unacceptable Questions in an Interview

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 31 May 2019 | comments*Discuss
Employer Company Interview Acceptable

When you go for an interview with a new company it’s all too easy to assume that the person interviewing you somehow knows more than you do. They may certainly know more about the company, but that’s not to say that whatever they ask you is acceptable and that you do not have the right to refuse to answer certain questions.

Nobody wants to be the interviewee that’s too difficult, or to look like you’re so obsessed with your working rights that you would be a nightmare to work with, but it is very important to understand what interview practices are and are not acceptable. Not only will this help you assess whether or not you even want to work for the company, but also to know if you’ve been discriminated against during the interview process and What Your Rights Are.

A word of warning – don’t go into an interview trying to catch them out. If potential employees are too keen to go to tribunals for minor issues, it makes it far harder for people who have really been discriminated against to have their case heard.

Asking about Children

Unless it is a part of the job description, there is no reason for an interviewer to ask anything about your family life, particularly if it is in terms of your ability to do the job. For example, if you are a married woman of child-bearing age, being asked whether you have children or plan to have children is not acceptable. Less clear cut examples of this would be to ask about your children’s schooling arrangements or plans for childcare over school holidays.

Any Religious Questions

Unless the need for a person with a particular religious belief is required for the role, there is no reason for religion to be mentioned at all during an interview. Similarly, there is no good reason to mention your religion on your CV or job application, however important it is to you. Religious Discrimination should never be acceptable.

Comments about Ethnicity

However positive or polite the question, asking about an interviewee’s ethnicity is not acceptable and can be deemed as Race Discrimination. This may be prompted by your appearance, surname or some other factor and may not sound negative, but it is still not acceptable. If you feel uncomfortable with any questions or comments of this nature, you are perfectly entitled to say so at the time, or report it later. If you feel the interviewer is simply naïve, you may prefer to let it go, or pass on your feelings to the HR manager or recruitment consultant that set up the interview.

Comments about Age

The most recent addition to the discrimination rules is that of age discrimination. While some people may feel that it is acceptable to look to recruit ‘young, dynamic graduates’, adverts like this are now illegal. Interviewers can ask about the interviewee’s ability to do the job, but it cannot be in reference, directly or indirectly, to their age.

Acceptable Interview Practices

The only issue that still not illegal, though it will probably soon be unacceptable, is discrimination over weight. That’s not to say it is nice or fair, or even something that an interviewer should ask about, but it’s not actually illegal to decline a candidate because they are very fat, even if it means that companies are missing out on good people because of their prejudices.

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If a building site does not a flushing toilet or chemical toilet, and the workers are all self-employed, who's responsible for the health and safety of the site and providing a toilet?
Monkian - 31-May-19 @ 10:47 AM
@Panda - Your employer should allow you time to be able to prepare for your hearing. How much reasonable notice they give you will dependent on the circumstances of your case, but good practice would be to give no less than 48 hours notice. When you received the notice your employer should have explained what the allegations against you are, so you can prepare your answers. Your employer should also provide copies of any written evidence including witness statements that will be presented at the hearing. Your employer should also have advised you of your right to be accompanied at the hearing, along with the the disciplinary procedure they intend to follow. If you need any further advice and guidance you should contact ACAS. I hope this helps.
WorkingRights - 13-Nov-14 @ 1:49 PM
How much notice should my employer give me to attend a disciplinary meeting?
Panda - 13-Nov-14 @ 10:05 AM
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