17 September 2018
Know your rights: The questions you should never have to answer at an interview

With 85% of hiring managers recently admitting to asking candidates off-limits questions, make sure you know where you stand at your next interview.

No matter how well prepared you are, an interview can be a daunting experience. You can go to every effort to make yourself feel comfortable and confident, but if the employer asks you a question you feel is unrelated to your job performance how do you respond?

85% of interviewers recently admitted to asking candidates off-limits questions, whilst one in five jobseekers have felt mistreated in an interview. Industry experts have suggested more training needs to be given to hiring managers to avoid such situations, but would you know which questions you do not have to answer? We’ve listed some of the common lines of inquiry and what you can say to avoid answering.

Are you married/do you have children?

This can seem like an innocent question – and often is – but recruiters shouldn’t ask you about your home life during interview. Whilst it might seem a natural question to ask in conversation with a person you’ve just been introduced to, it can also leave employees open to discrimination on grounds of sexual preference or potential maternity leave.

How you can answer: I usually prefer to keep my personal life and work separate

How old are you?

There are definitely legal reasons in which an employer will need to know your age, or at least that you are over a certain age, but asking for your age in an interview is not appropriate. As many as one in seven older workers feels that they have missed out on a job because of their age, so recruiters would do well to avoid this area, which again leaves them open to claims of discrimination. Instead of asking for your exact age, an interviewer can ask you if you are over a certain required age, such as 18.

How you can answer: Old enough!

Where does that accent come from?

Whilst this might come from legitimate interest in you as a person, recruiters should not ask questions around your place of birth or if you were raised outside of the UK. An employer can ask you if you have the legal right to work in the UK, but interviewees can feel affected by an unconscious bias if too much emphasis is put on where they grew up.

How you can answer: I speak fluent English and have full legal rights to work in the UK

Do you smoke?

Employers are not allowed to ask you questions about your lifestyle. Whether or not you smoke has no bearing on your job performance and can lead employers to assume that you may take more breaks than a non-smoker.

How you can answer: I don’t allow my personal habits to affect my work performance

It’s perfectly likely that the person interviewing you isn’t intentionally asking you inappropriate questions. Recent research shows that nearly half of hiring managers have never had training on interview questioning and technique. If you find yourself confronted with a question which you think could be discriminatory, speak up and let the recruiter know. Chances are they’ll be apologetic, and the interview will continue without issue. And if not, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.