Illegal job interview questions that no employer should ask

Illegal job interview questions that no employer should ask

May 23, 2019 by Reo Group

Job interviews are all unique, but one thing you can be sure of is that you’ll be asked to answer a bunch of questions! Exactly what you’ll be asked varies greatly depending on the organisation and the role. However, the questions should always relate back to assessing your ability to perform the tasks required – if they don’t, it could be unlawful.

Being clear on the types of questions that are relevant to the job, and those that cross the line and could be discriminatory is a must. So, read on to discover which job interview questions are lawful, which are not, and find out how to handle illegal questions if you’re asked.

Which Job Interview Questions Are Lawful?

The purpose of any job interview is to find out if you’re the right person for the role, and the questions should be designed to enable the interviewer to determine this. This means they may ask about your past work experience, previous roles and achievements. They’ll also likely ask questions about your strengths, weaknesses and character traits as this is relevant to how suited you are to the position.

It’s a good idea to prepare some winning answers to these types of questions. Arriving at an interview armed with some great examples of times you’ve exceeded expectations in areas related to the role you’re applying for helps to boost your confidence and settle the nerves.

Which Job Interview Questions Are Illegal?

No matter what type of job you’re going for, there are certain questions that no employer has the right to ask.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, it’s unlawful to request or require another person to supply information that could be used to form the basis of discrimination against them. The Fair Work Act 2009 backs this up, stating you must not discriminate against prospective employees based on their sex, age, race, colour, sexual orientation, marital status, physical or mental disability, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin, pregnancy, marital status and family or carer’s responsibilities.

Here are some examples of illegal questions that could be used to discriminate:

  • How old are you?
  • What’s your ethnic background?
  • Are you in a same-sex relationship?
  • What religion are you?
  • Who did you vote for in the last election?
  • Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant?
  • Do you have a mental or physical disability?

Are There Any Exceptions?

The only possible exception to this rule is if the question is being asked because it’s reasonably required to find out if you can perform the role. For example, if you were applying for a position that required heavy lifting, you may be asked about a physical disability if it would affect your ability to do the job.

What if You’re Asked an Illegal Question?

In an interview situation, it can be difficult to speak up or refuse to answer, especially if you’re keen to land the job. However, it’s against the law for employers to discriminate based on the attributes mentioned above and being clear on what you can and can’t be asked is the best way to ensure you’re not unfairly treated.

So, what should you do if you’re asked a question that steps over the line? The best way to handle it is to politely decline to answer and explain that you don’t see how the question relates to your ability to perform the role. This should either prompt the interviewer to withdraw the question or explain how it is relevant to the position you are applying for.


Final Word on Illegal Job Interview Questions

If you’re like most people, the idea of answering common questions well at a job interview makes you at least a little nervous, let alone dealing with illegal ones.

However, when you approach your interview with a clear idea of where the boundaries lie and what is lawful and what is illegal, you can effectively deal with any unnecessary questions that come your way.

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