The Worst Interview Questions to ask your Candidates

By Cohesion Recruitment

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There is an eclectic range of interview questions that you can ask your candidates – the question is: which shouldn’t you ask?

Your interview questions should be specific to the role, and the value that the candidate can bring to the role. Personal questions are definitely something you should steer clear of, unless the role absolutely demands it.

In an interview, the last thing you want to do is give the candidate the impression that you are discriminating against them – or, that you are assessing them using meaningless details.

If word gets around that your Company discriminates during interviews – your reputation will take a serious hit. This could mean that you receive lower quality applicants, and you have access to a much smaller talent pool. In other words – if you are known to discriminate, your recruitment goals will be much harder to achieve.

Let's take a look at some of the questions that you might think are acceptable, but really aren't:

1. “How old are you?”

Are you familiar with the phrase: “you should never ask a woman her age”? Well, this applies when you’re interviewing candidates. That’s not to say that this only applies to your female candidates – it doesn’t. This rule applies generally, to all of your candidates.

Why? First of all, they may get offended by you asking them such a personal question. Second of all, it doesn’t really matter! Their age will not take away from how suitable they are to the role – it shouldn’t even cross your mind. You don’t want them to get the impression that this is important to their application – this reflects negatively on your employer brand.

2. “How far do you have to travel to work?”

Many interviewers feel as though this question is perfectly acceptable to ask. And, in some cases, asking a slight variation can be fine – “are you able to start work at 9am, and finish at 5pm?”, for example.

However, it could give the candidate the impression that it will come into consideration with their application. You don’t want them to feel as though their commute will impact their application negatively, and that the person closest to the office is more likely to be offered the job.

3. “Where are you from?”

There’s no subtle way of asking this question – it just comes across as rude. Their nationality, accent, or anything of that nature should not have any bearing on their application, so you don’t need to know it.

However, you are allowed to ask if they’re legally authorised to work in the UK – because, for legal reasons, you need to know this. However, their exact nationality isn’t important.

Asking this question could get you into a lot of trouble. Imagine: you ask a candidate where they’re from, then they don’t get the job. What are they going to think? Whatever it is – it won’t be good for your reputation.

4. “Are you married?”

This is an extremely personal question, and should be avoided at all costs. First of all, the candidate may interpret this question as your subtle way of asking about their sexual orientation – another question which should never be asked. This can make the candidate feel awkward, and give the wrong impression of your company culture.

Second of all, the candidate may feel as though you’re trying to… you know… hit on them. Which, of course, is extremely unprofessional. To maintain a professional exterior, and the impression that you are a fair company – don’t do it.

5. “Do you have/do you intend to have children?”

Under no circumstances should you ask a candidate if they have children, or if they plan to have children in the future. Asking this question can give the candidate the impression that it will impact their application negatively – that you discriminate against individuals with children.

How? First of all, they may think that you, as the employer, will assume they will need to work fewer hours because of their children. Second of all, they may get the impression that you won’t hire them because they’ll be taking maternity/paternity leave at some point in the future. Both of which will severely impact your employer brand and reputation.

Put yourself in their shoes – what would you think, if you were asked one of the above questions?

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