Employers use a job interview as a way to work out how suitable you are for a role and an interview is an ideal opportunity for you to discuss your skills and expertise. But what kind of questions are recruiters and hirers allowed to ask?

In a nutshell, the questions you are asked should relate to your ability to perform the requirements of the job.

Questions that employers can’t legally ask

Questions that dig for information beyond what is relevant to the role are not acceptable.  

All people are protected from unlawful discrimination in their employment.

If an employer asks about your sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, political opinions, employment status, age or family status, then they might be discriminating against you.  However, there are some exceptions where discrimination may be permitted.

For example, you will not need to disclose your age in an interview where age is not an indicator of your ability to do the job in question, but there are some exceptions where being asked your age is entirely appropriate. For instance where a person must be of a certain age to work in a pub.  An exception also applies for domestic employment in private households.

Questions around disabilities might be illegal if they do not relate to your ability to perform the job. However, exceptions will apply if certain physical abilities are essential for the role.

Employees usually owe a duty of confidentiality to their existing/previous employers. Therefore if a prospective employer asks a question which will result in your breaching your duty of confidentiality you must not answer. Examples include disclosing trade secrets, confidential information or intellectual property.

Do you have ‘clean-slated’ convictions?

It is still lawful for employers to ask someone to consent to their criminal record being disclosed, but if the person has a ‘clean slate’, then no convictions will be revealed.

It is an offence for an employer to require, or request an individual to reveal, clean-slated convictions.

What you can do if you are asked a question that you think is illegal?

Regardless of whether a question is illegal or not, when you’re eager for a role, it can be hard to refuse to answer a question. In these cases, you could question the relevance of the question to the role. If the interviewer cannot provide a legitimate explanation they are likely to move on quickly.