Research from CV-writing service TopCV and CV-Library has found 73 per cent of nearly 2,000 professionals surveyed have been asked an inappropriate or illegal question during an interview. When asked about the types of topics they’ve been questioned about in an interview, the following areas were identified as those which interviewees are most commonly quizzed on:
1. Marital status (38 per cent)
2. Age (34 per cent)
3. Criminal convictions (32 per cent)
4. Disability and illness (25 per cent)
5. Children and family planning (25 per cent)
6. Place of birth or ethnicity (25 per cent)
7. Lifestyle choices (E.g. Do you smoke? How much do you typically drink?) (19 per cent)
8. Memberships or affiliations (14 per cent)
9. Religion (12 per cent)
10. Gender or sexual orientation (11 per cent)
In addition, when asked if they’d like to provide an example anonymously, over 100 people wanted to share their ‘off-limits’ stories with the survey and some of the responses that came back were startling. Questions ranged from ‘Why should we hire a person of your age and not someone younger?’ to ‘Have staff ever been distracted by your good looks?’
“While most interview questions are asked as a genuine way to evaluate a candidate’s ability to do the job, some may steer toward an unprofessional or downright illegal place,” said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at TopCV. “When it comes to obtaining personal information, responses could impact their candidacy because of discrimination or bias – regardless if it’s done intentionally.
“For anyone who is unsure, any personal or sensitive information is usually off-limits, unless it is specifically relevant to the job for which you are applying. If you feel uncomfortable answering, don’t be afraid to say so,” she added.
As the researchers point out, Interviewing for a new job is a nerve-wracking affair, even for those with years of experience under their belt. “While it’s standard practice to be asked questions about previous work experience, as well as personal qualities or skills in an interview, other questions are less acceptable,” adds says Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library. “This includes anything relating to a candidate’s age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of national origin or birthplace, disability or family plans.”