Good Practice Guide to Interviewing: keeping within the law

Interviewing, thankfully, isn’t what it used to be; you can no longer have a cosy conversation with the candidate about who they are, what they do in their spare time, what they get up to with their family if they have one, when they left school, why they want to join your company at their age (whether young or old); which is essentially having a chat to get to know them. Why? Because most of these questions are now unlawful since they could be construed as discriminatory.

The Equality Act 2010 impacts significantly on the recruitment process, from what you can and cannot say in a job advert, to what you shouldn’t ask in an interview and during the selection process.

Imagine the scenario: you ask a female candidate how old her children are and whether the job location is commutable. Simple questions you might ask someone you meet socially. However, if you don’t offer the candidate the job can she claim discrimination (on the grounds of being a female with a young family) since you implied that commuting might be a problem with a young family, which obviously it wouldn’t be to a man?

See how easy it is to fall foul of the law?

The equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against candidates on the grounds of:

  • Age
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marital Status
  • Whether pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Disability
  • Race, colour, nationality or ethnicity
  • Religion and beliefs
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Trade Union Membership

This means that you can’t ask any questions related to any of these, nor can you use terms such as salesman or waitress – anything gender specific in fact – in an advert or on an application form. Nor can you use any terms that are age related such as ‘mature’, ‘young’, ‘highly experienced’, ‘recent graduate’ or ‘school leaver’. You can’t even ask for ‘twenty years’ experience as it precludes someone who is too young to have got that many years’ experience.

Obviously, there are a few exceptions, such as jobs that are physically demanding and require you to be fit and able-bodied. However, if a candidate is disabled then you shouldn’t assume that they cannot do the job; rather, look at the skills and competencies required for the role and find out if the candidate has these, before discounting them. You can also positively discriminate if you are actively recruiting a disabled person for example. In terms of age you can ask for a date of birth if the role requires the person to be a certain age such as barman selling alcohol who must be aged 18 plus.

To protect yourself you should check thoroughly your adverts, application forms, job descriptions and selection/interview materials to ensure compliance. You should also take time to write down the questions that will be asked in an interview and during the selection process. This will make sure that you ask all the relevant questions you need answers to and prevent you from asking those that you shouldn’t.

For more information go to:

Links to other pages

Ten Questions to ask your Search Firm
Nine Key Steps to Successfully Recruiting Overseas
Five Steps to Succession Planning