Ask the Recruiter – February 2019

My company is about to go through a phase of growth, so I’ll be interviewing and hiring several people. I’ve got plenty of advice about what to ask candidates, but much less about what to avoid asking. Could you give me some tips?

I appreciate this can be daunting – it can seem as though there’s a whole host of rules about what you’re legally allowed to ask candidates. Actually, though, as long as you stick to their ability to do the job you’re hiring for, you should be okay. Here are some examples of what not to ask, and some alternatives.

Don’t ask Alternatives
Which country are you from / where were you born? Are you eligible to work in the UK?
How do you feel about managing women? What’s your experience of managing staff?
Do you plan to have children? The role occasionally requires last minute overtime, will that be okay?
How old are you? Age should only be part of the discussion if this candidate will be selling alcohol or tobacco or in some other age-restricted industry. If not, there isn’t an alternative, just don’t ask.
What religion are you? Are you happy to work with “X” type of clients? Will you be available to work the hours that this job requires?
Are you married? Some employers think a married person will be more responsible, others think a single person will devote more time to the job. Either way, you can’t ask this.
Do you have any health conditions / disabilities? Focus on the candidate’s ability to do the job.
How long will your commute be? Will you be able to start work at 9AM?
Do you have any previous criminal convictions?


Unless relevant to the role (working with children, for example) if a conviction is spent, a candidate does not need to declare it.


This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully you get the gist. Essentially, you should only interview a candidate on the basis of their ability to do the job. One way to ensure this is to use competency based interview questions – you can find plenty of examples online.

I should note, that these all apply in the same way when you’re briefing a recruiter on a new role for them to work on. A good recruiter will always send you the candidates most capable of doing the job regardless of gender/age/race/religion etc.

If you’d like your question to be featured in Ask the Recruiter next month, email [email protected].


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