Published 02 January, 2021

10 Questions that an Interviewer Should Never Ask a Candidate (6 Mins Read)

In today's competitive environment, conducting a job interview is quite stressful for both the parties, the employer and the employee, as you are looking for the best employee and the candidate is looking to make the best impression and secure the job. In this situation, the last thing that you would want as a recruiter is to make a candidate feel uncomfortable or feel discriminated against no matter how good your intentions might be. So, while conducting an interview, you have to always keep in mind that you cannot ask any questions which is related to any of the following:

  1. What’s your age?: Under no circumstances, you should ask a candidate about his age either directly like “How old are you” or indirectly like “When did you first start working” which gives you a clear idea about the candidate’s current age. If you do have a minimum age requirement and want to be sure that the candidate is eligible, then you can ask, "Are you over the age of 18?" or whatever is the minimum age requirement.
  2. What’s your marital status?: There are a couple of reasons, why this question is not to be asked.  Firstly, it could be misunderstood by the candidate as a subtle way for you to find out their sexual orientation.  Secondly, it could seem as if you are looking for information on the candidate’s future family plans.
  3. Who all are there in your family or family status?: You should never ask the candidate if they have children or if they are planning on having children in the near future.  As questions like this not only puts the candidate in an awkward position, but also makes them feel that they might be overlooked, if they have children then the employer might assume that they would want to work for fewer hours so that they can manage their children.  In the same way, if you ask about their future plans for having kids, it might make the candidate feel as if you would not invest in them as an employee because they’ll think that you would go on long leave like maternity/paternity.
  4. Where are you from?: If you look at the person’s resume that will give you a fair idea of where your candidate comes from. So, there is no need to ask a candidate questions like “Which country you are from” or “Where are you from”. Although, you might mean nothing discriminatory by the question, but if the person is not hired, then it would look like that the question was for national origin discrimination.
  5. Languages spoken at home: This question also indirectly falls into the national origin discriminationcategory. If you're hiring an employee for a position that requires proficiency in different languages, then the appropriate question to ask is, “How many languages do you know?” “How well do you speak that language?” In order to assess their language skills, you can have an existing employee in the panel, who is well versed with the particular language.
  6. Health: Many positions may have some specific physical ability needs. While you need to know if the candidate is capable of performing the required job, you can’t ask them direct questions like "How is your health?" If you ask a candidate about their good health or if they have had any major illnesses in the past, then it might be considered as illegal. You should not ask about their height, weight or any details regarding any physical or mental limitations. An employer can, however, ask if the applicant is able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable support.As pregnancy is also considered eligible for a disability pay, that’s also a reason you can't ask about a candidate's health status. But other disabilities are just as protected too. For instance, you shouldn’t straightaway ask questions like "Do you have any disability?" If you need any specific physical capabilities for a particular job, then you can explain those requirements again, although they were already listed in the job description. Then you may ask if they would be able to perform the physical tasks safely. This will sound as more appropriate.
  1. Do You Need Health Insurance?: If you're asking this question because the job doesn't offer any health insurance and you want to make the candidate aware of it, then you should communicate it well in advance before calling them for the face to face interview, as everyone needs health insurance. By waiting until the interview and asking your candidate if he needs health insurance, it would make the candidate feel more that you are just prying into their marital status, their health status and their financial independence. So, this question should not be asked.
  2. What Did You Hate About Your Last Job?: The candidates dislike something or the other about their current job or why would they be searching for a job. But, they try very hard to stay positive. So, you should not ask about why they hated their last job. Instead, ask questions about what they are looking for in the new job. That would be a better and much more positive question.
  3. Salary history: Women are usually paid less than that what men make. So, determine the salary for any given position up front. During the interview, make that salary range known and confirm that the candidate is still interested for the particular position. The idea is that this will help ensure that women and minorities who have a history of being paid less do not see that cycle again repeated by the employers who would have adjusted a position's salary down in order to save a few pennies more.
  4. Do you smoke and drink socially or occasionally?: Whether a candidate drinks socially or not isn’t really any of your business. Hence, there’s absolutely no reason on earth why you should be asking this question to a candidate. Your organisation might have a very lively company culture which includes plenty of work nights out and frequent company dinners or occasional parties or on the other hand, it might have a very strict no-smoking policy, still asking a candidate if they smoke or not is completely out of line. How does it matter, if they drink or smoke socially or so what if they don’t.


Summary: You should only focus on asking the questions which are absolutely relevant to the requirements of the job and assess if the candidate meets all the criteria for that particular position. The questions have to be consistent and the interview process should be kept as simple as it can be. In order to do that you have to create a set list of questions before the interview and stick to that. Avoid asking anything too personal which might appear as a discrimination. At the end, even if the candidate is not selected, they must feel that the interview was fair and their experience was good.



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