5 Questions You Shouldn’t Ask in an Interview

When it comes to conducting interviews, there are a handful of questions you simply shouldn’t ask the candidates in front of you.  Whether it’s because your words could be misconstrued or cause offence, sometimes you need to look for a way around a certain question if you want to get to know your interviewee without putting them on the defensive.

Here are just five questions you really shouldn’t ask in an interview, with a few alternative ways of finding out the information you need…

1. Do you have kids?

It’s a given – you should never ask if someone is expecting or already has children.  It probably wouldn’t even cross your mind to ask the ‘family question’ of a man, so don’t ask it of the woman sitting in front of you either. You could try, instead, to ask whether they see any problem with the working hours if they have other commitments outside the office.  That gives your interviewee a chance to let you know if they have little ones who will need picking up and dropping off at school or other relatives they need to care for.

2. When did you graduate?

Asking when someone left university could be a tricky one, as it’s almost as good as asking their age.  Rather than run the risk of being accused of age discrimination, try to find a slightly more tactful way of asking about their degree and subsequent experience. You might try asking about what and where they studied and hope they raise their graduation year of their own accord.  Failing that, asking about where they see their career going or what they are looking for in a new job can get them to open up and talk about past achievements.

3. Where do you live?

Commuting can really take it out of you, so most recruiters want to know their candidate isn’t going to be making a gruelling hundred-mile round trip to get to and from work each day.  Asking where someone lives could, however, be misconstrued as prying or finding grounds for discrimination. You might try highlighting any commuting benefits your company offers, such as travel discounts or car sharing schemes.  Alternatively, try asking if they are happy with the location of the office and give them a chance to talk about how close or far it is from home.

4. How many sick days did you take in your last job?

Asking about sick days is tantamount to asking about a person’s health, and that’s a definite no-no.  If someone has a condition they feel they need to tell you about, then they will tell you in their own way and at the time of their choosing. Never pressure someone to reveal any medical details.  Instead, you could try asking if they see any barriers which might make it tricky for them to carry out their work, giving them the space to talk about their health if they feel the need to.

5. Why should we give you the job?

It’s still a staple question in many interviews, but most candidates will be put on the defensive if you demand to know why you should hire them.  It can come across as confrontational, and you won’t get the most out of the candidate if they feel you’re putting too much pressure on them. There are much friendlier ways of posing the same question, so you might want to ask them to highlight the key skills and experience they have which make them suited to the position.

Some questions have to be completely off the cards, so never ask anything which could be seen to be prying into ethnicity, religion or a candidate’s health and wellbeing.  Most interviewees will volunteer the information you’re after if you leave your questions fairly open-ended, so phrase things creatively and let your candidates speak freely if you want to get the most out of your interviews.