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85% of interviewers admit asking candidates ‘off limits’ questions

Some 85% of interviewers have admitted to asking questions which can be seen to be “off limits” or potentially illegal during the interview process, research by UK science and technology recruitment specialists, Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS) has revealed.

The research also unveiled confusion among hiring managers over what can and cannot be asked, with 47% saying they have never had official training on what questions to ask in an interview.

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The firm said the findings highlighted a lack of interview training among those responsible for hiring staff. Some 36% of those at a junior level of responsibility said they had received training, compared to 56% of those at director level and 72% of business owners.

Over three-quarters (77%) of interviewers surveyed said they do not think it is potentially illegal to ask: “Are you planning on going on maternity/paternity leave?” with 40% thinking the question is acceptable and 36% thinking it is inappropriate – but not potentially illegal.

However, 42% of male hiring managers think it is an ‘acceptable’ question compared to 24% of female hiring chiefs.

From an employee point of view, the survey went on to show that 19% feel they have been mistreated in an interview.  And, of those, 48% tried to ignore it, 34% told the interviewer how they felt, 19% walked out and just 17% made a complaint to the hiring company.

Some 23% of men and 16% of women said they had felt mistreated in an interview, with a further 43% of men and 22% of women telling the interviewer how they felt.

By law, employers cannot ask people about their ‘protected characteristics’ in an interview as this could lead to discrimination. ‘Protected characteristics’ include marital status, whether people have or plan to have children, health and disability, age, becoming or being a transsexual person, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion, belief or lack of religion/belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Founder of HRS and former Apprentice winner Ricky Martin has called on Britain’s bosses to “sharpen up their act” when it comes to interviews.

He said: “It’s pretty shocking to unearth that such practices are happening every day in the hiring process. It is imperative British bosses are educated on workplace practice, to put a stop to such shocking interview practices which lead to unprecedented inequality.

“Official training should be mandatory across all business sectors for anyone involved in the process of interviewing prospective candidates. This research isn’t about suggesting the recruitment process is made easy for interviewees, but ensuring all prospective employees are given a fair and honest opportunity to secure a job based on their skills and ability not their gender, personal choices or maternity/paternity choices.”


The top 10 off limits questions that hiring managers admitted they have asked candidates in interviews include:

What year did you graduate? (59%)
What year were you born? (55%)
Do you have any children? (56%)
Are you physically fit and healthy? (53%)
Are you in a relationship or married? (51%)
Have you got any plans to start a family? (42%)
Where is your accent from? (46%)
Will you need flexible time for family life? (46%)
Did you grow up outside of the UK? (45%)
Will you need time off during half term? (43%)

Employees’ worst 10 interview questions to be asked:

What would your worst enemy say about you?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you were on holiday with all of your family and the company need you, would you come back?
If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?
What are your weaknesses?
Describe a situation where you didn’t work well with a supervisor or co-worker.
What is your biggest regret?
Tell me about a time you failed.
Tell me something interesting about yourself.
What would you do if you were the sole survivor of an airline crash on a desert island?

Which questions or statements do hiring managers think are appropriate, inappropriate and illegal to ask in interviews?

Question Acceptable Inappropriate Potentially illegal
I noticed you are single on Facebook 31% 55% 14%
Do you plan to have any more children? 36% 42% 22%
Are your parents from outside the UK? 36% 46% 18%
Our team has a great work / life balance – we always go out and get drunk 36% 57% 6%
Have you got any plans to start a family? 39% 39% 22%
Do you drink alcohol? 39% 53% 9%
Are you planning on maternity / paternity leave? 40% 36% 23%
Do you often get a migraine or headache? 40% 50% 10%
Who do you live with? 42% 49% 9%
Will you need time off for religious holidays? 43% 39% 18%
Which social media platforms do you use? 44% 50% 6%
You’ll get along with xx as you are into similar things 45% 48% 6%
Are you in a relationship / married? 46% 43% 11%
Where is your accent from? 47% 44% 9%
We have a young culture here – does that appeal to you? 49% 43% 8%
Will you need time off during half term? 50% 40% 10%
Will you need flexible time for family life? 52% 37% 11%
Do you have any children? 54% 35% 12%
You’ll fit in 58% 38% 5%
What year were you born? 60% 28% 12%

 

Question %age of under-35s who have been asked this in an interview %age of over-35s who have been asked this in an interview
What year did you graduate? 56% 22%
What year were you born? 51% 41%
Do you have any children? 49% 41%
Do you drink alcohol? 40% 14%
Have you got any plans to start a family? 40% 12%
Will you need flexible time for family life? 37% 13%
Are you planning on going on maternity / paternity leave? 34% 8%
Will you need time off for religious holidays? 34% 7%
What are your thoughts on work relationships? 33% 10%
Do you plan to have any more children? 29% 8%

 

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