Questions you should NEVER be asked in an interview

by | 10.02.22

When it comes to interviews some topics are simply off limit. Whilst most interview questions are used to test your ability to do the job others could indicate discrimination. Here are a few red flags to look out for:

Your Address

It is perfectly okay for a potential employer to ask you for your address and how long you have lived there. What you can’t be asked is do you own your home or rent. Who do you live with and how are you related to the people you live with? Watch out for this question.

You Age

For some jobs age is a legal requirement, i.e.: working in a bar, so it is acceptable to ask a candidate their age and to ask for proof of their age. What you can’t be asked is your exact age. You can be asked if you are over 18 and for you to provide proof but if you are obviously over 18 you can answer this question by saying “old enough” if you want. There is one exception here though an employer can ask your date of birth in a separate equality monitoring form.

Your Origin

Although employers have a legal obligation to check that applicants are eligible to work in the UK, they have no right to ask you any questions about your race, religion or native language. Although many jobs may require employees to speak fluently none of them will need English to be your first language. As long as you are able to speak and write English to the required standard and can provide proof of your legal right to work in the UK you’re well within your right to be considered. In fact, implying that your nationality would affect your ability to do the job could indicate discrimination.

Your Marital Status

Any questions about marital status, children and future family plans should not be asked at an interview not only are these questions personal they are potentially discriminatory. This particular line of questioning could also be used to determine a person’s sexual orientation, something which has no bearing on a candidate’s ability to do a job. So, no matter what the context questions like these should raises an immediate red flag.

Your Health

An employer should not ask you questions about sickness, health or disabilities during an interview. The only time an employer can ask about this is if its to establish whether you need an assessment to determine your suitability for the job or to determine whether adjustments need to be made in order to accommodate your needs. Once a position has been offered the employer can make enquiries into your health, but only if this relates to your ability to carry out the role effectively.

Your Criminal Convictions

There is no obligation for you to disclose criminal convictions if the sentence has already been spent. For this reason, an employer cannot refuse employment to anyone because of a previous crime unless it relates to the role in question, for example a teacher, childminder or a senior banking or finance role. Its also working bearing in mind that criminal record checks are carried out by the Disclosure + Barring Service (DBS) for certain roles for instance working with children, healthcare etc, but this should be undertaken by an employer before you are offered their job. Remember though if you have a criminal record, it is only relevant if it would affect you working in certain areas.

Your Credit History

In general, you should not be asked questions about your credit history, nor should you be questioned about your bank account, whether your wages have ever had court attachments made on them or have you ever been made bankrupt. Your financial situation is your business.

Your Employment History

It is perfectly okay for an employer to ask how long you were with your last employer and what were the start and finish dates. What it is not acceptable IS an employer to ask you is when you first started working as this could be considered as age discrimination.

Your Education

Of course, an employer will want to know about your education, usually your High School, College and University history. What they shouldn’t be asking though is for the dates you were in education as this again could be considered age discrimination.

Your Family Status

It is okay for an employer to ask you if you have any commitments that might prevent you from working flexible hours. What is not okay is to ask if you have children and if you do what childcare do you have in place. Naturally if you can’t work late nights or weekends you need to tell the employer but what you don’t need to do is tell them why you can’t.

Your Religion

This question is not relevant to any position and should never be asked, it has no relevance to any job you are applying for unless its to join a religious order! This is a discriminatory question, and you should not be led into answering under any circumstances.

Your Martial Status

Whether you are married or not is irrelevant to your ability to do a job. Another question which should not be asked is if you are planning on getting married, if you answer this one, I promise you the next question will be are your planning to have children. Being married and having a family should not disqualify you from any role you choose to apply for.

Your Membership To Any Union

You can be asked if you are a member of any professional body, i.e. AAT, ACCA, CIMA etc. What you can’t be asked is if you are a member of any union, or what are you views on unions. Nor can you be asked if you are a Mason, or a member of the top golf club. Avoid these questions about non-professional organisations as these could be seen as proxy questions about age, class, religion etc.

Your View on Working For Male/Female Bosses

Why would you be asked this question? Well, I’ll tell you it’s to establish whether you are sexist or not. Hopefully you will never be asked this because but if you are either refuse to answer it on the grounds that its irrelevant or alternatively ask why you are being asked this as it has nothing to do with the job.

Your Retirement Plans

Sometimes if you are an older candidate a politically incorrect interviewer could ask when you plan it retire. Nowadays unless an employer has a mandatory retirement policy you can work as long as you like so this question is irrelevant. So never answer this one, we are living longer, we are fitter than ever and if you want to work until you are 80 you can.

This is by no means a definitive list. There is a number of other questions which may arise, and the same themes could be asked in a variety of ways. If you are in doubt, remember you should only be interviewed on your ability to do the job. Any questions leading to a reason not to employ you e.g., relating to your personal life, age or ethnicity are strictly off limits. If you are ever asked something you are simply not comfortable answering never be afraid of saying so. Most employers will understand why are voicing this or if they are not, I promise you its not an employer you should be working for.

Good Luck

Angela Burton