Talent Acquisition

The 10 Worst Interview Questions

There are illegal interview questions that you are prohibited to ask by law, and then there are bad interview questions – ones that are just outdated, inappropriate, hackneyed or pointless (some of which are also illegal). At minimum, asking them reflects poorly on you as an employee, but asking bad interview questions can also put your company reputation at risk.

Here’s a list of interview questions not to ask – and why you want to avoid them.

1. Where do you live?  
This could be cause for discrimination.
Ask instead: “Are you comfortable with our location?” to ensure that commuting will not be an issue. Be sure to mention any commuting benefits like ride shares or commuter compensation your organisation offers.

2. What country are you from?
What country a candidate is from should be irrelevant.
Ask instead: “Are you authorised to work in the UK?” If that’s the country you’re hiring for.

3. How many sickness days did you take in your last job?
Questions about sickness, health and disabilities should always be avoided. You can only ask about health or disability if there are necessary requirements of the job that can’t be met with reasonable adjustments, you’re finding out if someone needs help taking part in a selection test or interview, of if you’re using ‘positive action’ to recruit a disabled person.
Ask instead: “Are there any specific requirements you need in order to perform the job effectively?”

4. What year did you graduate?
This would highlight the candidate’s age which is another protected class, so avoid any question that might force admission of specific milestones tied to years.
Ask instead: “What are you looking for in your career right now?” or “What are you looking for in your next position?”

5. Are you pregnant? Are you married? Do you have kids you’ll have to collect early from school each day?
Candidates’ family planning and familial status is none of your business. Focus on their qualifications for the role.
Ask instead: “Do you foresee any issue with being here during work hours, travelling as needed, or fulfilling the job requirements?”

6. Are there any religious holidays you observe?  
Do not ask about religion, ever. Any question that refers to a protected class is a bad interview question – those include sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), race, religion, national origin/citizenship, age, disability status, veteran status, pregnancy and familial status and genetic information. Use common judgement and understand the laws.
Ask instead: Nothing related to religious affiliation.

7. Who did you vote for?
This may sound obvious but political preferences should never be discussed.
Ask instead: Nothing related to politics.

8. Have you been convicted of a crime?  
You can find this information out in a background check.
Ask instead: Nothing related to a criminal record.

9. Why should we hire you?
It comes across as a bit aggressive and puts candidates on the spot – and not in a good way.
Ask instead: “Tell me about how your experience and skills will be a fit for and align with this position.”

10. What’s your biggest weakness?
While this is still a common interview question, it’s unoriginal and likely won’t get you an authentic or realistic answer.
Ask instead: “Tell me about a time you saw an opportunity to improve yourself and how you went about achieving that goal.”

For more tips, checklists and templates on improving your interview process and getting quality candidates in the door, download the complete How to Conduct Better Interviews guide.

Note: This list is not intended to be complete or constitute legal advice. If you have questions about the legality of interview questions, please consult your organisation’s solicitor.

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