Eight in 10 interviewers have asked inappropriate questions while recruiting

3 Sep 2018 By Emily Burt

Hiring managers should be trained on proper interview practice, say experts

Experts are warning employers must better educate themselves on recruitment practices, after a report revealed today that eight in 10 interviewers have asked inappropriate – and potentially illegal – questions. 

The survey of 2,000 UK employees and hiring managers from Hyper Recruitment Solutions found 85 per cent of interviewers admitted asking ‘off-limits’ questions during the recruitment process. Almost one in five (19 per cent) jobseekers said they had felt mistreated during an interview. 

More than half (56 per cent) of hiring managers confessed they had asked a candidate whether they had children, while 51 per cent said they had asked whether somebody was married. Almost half (46 per cent) had quizzed candidates about the origins of their accents and a similar proportion (45 per cent) queried whether a jobseeker had grown up outside the UK. 

Paul Holcroft, associate director at Croner, said the report highlighted risks employers should be aware of when considering interview questions, warning a misdirected question could leave an employer facing a costly discrimination claim. 

“Throughout the recruitment process, candidates are entitled to the same protections that employees are by the Equality Act 2010… If asked off-limit questions such as these, the applicant could potentially argue they were refused the role due to certain characteristics such as age, gender, relationship status or family plans, even if this wasn’t actually the reason,” he added. 

Four of the 10 most common ‘off-limits’ questions identified by the survey revolved around parenting, with more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of survey respondents revealing they do not think it is potentially illegal to ask if a candidate is planning to take maternity or paternity leave.

The survey findings follow an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report, published in February this year, which found six in 10 private sector employers believed a woman should disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process.

“Our previous research into maternity discrimination found British employers are living in the dark ages and have worrying attitudes towards unlawful behaviour when it comes to recruiting women,” Sue Coe, head of employment at the EHRC, told People Management. 

“This research shows that employers need more support to make workplaces the best they can be for working parents.”

Education is paramount for organisations seeking to avoid a potential discrimination claim, Holcroft warned. Almost half (47 per cent) of hiring managers surveyed by Hyper Recruitment Solutions revealed they had never received formal training on the questions to ask during an interview. 

“Steps should be taken to ensure that training is provided to all interviewers, encouraging them to keep any questions asked specifically related to the job opportunity and, by doing so, consider the applicant on their merits alone,” he said. 

“All final decisions should be made solely by identifying if the applicant’s experience and skills match the requirements of the role.”

Founder of Hyper Recruitment Solutions, and former The Apprentice winner, Ricky Martin added official training should be mandatory across all business sectors to make sure recruitment processes were as fair as possible. “It’s really important a light is shone on what is and isn’t acceptable in the recruitment process to give prospective employees the best possible chance of success at the interview stage,” he said. 

“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 decisions, or maternity/paternity choices.”

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