Interviewing - Successful Selection

by Jane Tredgett

Questions to avoid


  • Leading questions, which tell the candidate the answer you are looking for: for example, ‘We need people to work as a team here – how good are you at working in a team?’ or ‘You have done this before, haven’t you?’ (Questions such as these make it easy for the candidate to lie)
  • Hypothetical questions, such as, ‘If this building was on fire, how would you react?’ You have no way of verifying the answer and a candidate can give you a perfect answer, based purely on their imagination and not on fact. Stick to real situations they have faced, rather than imaginary ones they have not
  • Questions starting ‘why’, when used in the following way: ‘Why did you make that decision?’ Why questions like this may imply a criticism and can trigger defensive reactions in some people. This, in turn, may break any rapport you have built
  • Discriminatory questions, relating to race, religion, sex, disability, spent crimes and age. Ideally, avoid questions on any of these topics unless it is absolutely necessary for the requirements of the job that you ask the candidate. For example, if the law says someone must be 18 to do a specific job, then you can ask this question. If the job specifically requires a person to be sighted for Health and Safety reasons, it is acceptable to explore this. It is not acceptable to explore travel arrangements with a working mother, when no mention of this has been made to a male candidate, nor is it acceptable to ask about age if there is no legal requirement for the job.

Which of these are discrimination and against the law?

  1. A job advert states ‘applicants should be between 20 and 35 years old’.
  2. An applicant is given a Friday afternoon interview, but requests an alternative time on religious grounds. Their request is refused.
  3. A woman is asked about child care arrangements in an interview.

Answer: all of them

Discrimination laws are regularly amended and updated. If you are in any doubt as to whether you can legally ask a specific question (or indeed whether, morally, you should ask it), ask your Human Resources Department for guidance before you start the interviews.

For more on this, see the page on Discrimination in the Recruitment topic.