Article: STOP! Illegal questions you should NEVER ask in a job interview

Recruitment

STOP! Illegal questions you should NEVER ask in a job interview

Beware: what employers might think are harmless personal questions during the candidate interview might already be grounds for a discrimination complaint. Find out which questions are barred from the interview process.
STOP! Illegal questions you should NEVER ask in a job interview

So you’re trying to build rapport with a prospective candidate. You start with the basics: ask them their name and location, and let them talk about their career goals for the next five years. Do you think it’s enough to get to know the candidate deeper or convince the candidate that you are offering the best opportunity in the market?

The job interview is a crucial part of the recruitment process because it allows you to get to know the candidates, ask them important questions relevant to the company, check candidates’ credentials, and determine if the prospective candidate is suitable for the position. It also provides candidates a chance to learn more about the role and the company and evaluate their interest in the position.

The company and the prospective employee will want to find out if they are the “right fit” for each other. For recruiters, preparing the right interview questions is essential.

Since the employer is largely in control of the interview process, there is a high chance that the recruiter could offend the candidate or even miss out on the best person for the job. 

That said, you should know the right question to ask to maximise the interview. On the flip side, you should also know the questions you want to avoid because not all questions are legally allowed.

Read more: How to handle a toxic boss

In Australia, recruiters were allowed to ask anything under the sun until laws were changed in 1975.

The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act of 1975, passed by the Whitlam Government, declared it illegal for employers to discriminate against candidates based on their race, color, or national origin. More and more Commonwealth and state/territory acts were passed in Australia to ensure equal opportunity for everyone. 

What NOT to ask when interviewing a job candidate

What are the illegal questions you should never ask candidates? Here is a list of what not to ask candidates during an interview:

How old are you? 

When a candidate is treated unfavourably because they are deemed “too young” or “too old” for a job, it may amount to age discrimination under the Age Discrimination Act of 2004. There are different scenarios that would be exempted from this rule. For instance, if a candidate is 17 and wants to work in a bar, he will not be accepted because the required age to handle alcohol is 18 years old.

Are you planning to start a family? / Are you pregnant?

There is a complete section on the illegality of discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or potential pregnancy under the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984. Asking candidates about their marital status is unlawful and irrelevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job requirements.

Who do you vote for? 

A candidate’s political opinions or persuasion about particular issues cannot be used against the candidate during recruitment. Most employers will instead be interested in candidates’ values, and it’s legal to ask candidates about what values are important to them.

What’s your ethnic background? 

Questions around race, national origin, and ethnicity can often be uncomfortable. Typically, a person’s race or ethnicity should not impact whether he or she can complete the job requirements. It is illegal then to base your decision of hiring a candidate due to his or her race under the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975. Similarly, asking a candidate if they follow a religious belief is illegal.

Do you have a mental or physical disability?

Under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, it is illegal to discriminate against a candidate based on their disability. This includes individuals who have both temporary and permanent mental and/or physical disabilities, medical conditions, physical disfigurement, and work-related injuries. The law protects people with disabilities who may need assistance from an interpreter, aide, reader, or assistance animal and those who use aids and equipment.

Read more: How to counter hate speech at work

Are you a member of a union?

Some workplaces are highly unionised, while others only have a few union members. It’s unlawful for recruiters to consider union membership (or lack of it) when interviewing a candidate.

What you can ask job candidates instead

Instead of those illegal questions, you can candidates the following:

·         Are you an Australian citizen/do you have the right to work here?

·         Can you speak [specify the language]?

·         Why did you leave your previous job?

·         Do you have a criminal record?

You can avoid workplace discrimination during the recruitment process. Remember to frame your questions appropriately and allow candidates to demonstrate their preparedness for the job.

A good employer-candidate relationship, which starts during the interview process, not only defines the overall candidate experience but can be the start of a great working relationship. 

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Topics: Recruitment, Talent Acquisition

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