Illegal Interview Questions


When preparing for a job interview, we are often preparing ourselves to answer some difficult questions. Some of us may not be aware that there are questions that can be asked in an interview that are in fact illegal.

During a job interview, the interviewer will try to ascertain as much information about you and your professional experience as possible. Most of the time this is perfectly legal and reasonable. However it is very important to be aware that in Australia we have legislation to protect employee discrimination and this legal protection begins right from the recruitment process.

In Australia, it is illegal to not hire candidates because of their age, race, religious beliefs, disability, ethnicity or marital/family status. It’s very important for job seekers to avoid answering questions that could illicit information based on those categories.

Applicants have rights during the hiring and interview process and employers are prohibited by law to ask questions that request personal information. For an employer to ask personal, insulting or completely irrelevant questions during an interview, it will suggest that they may will make a decision based on the applicant’s answers.

Here are some examples of illegal questions during an interview:

•    Do you have children? 
•    Do you plan to have children in the next couple of years?
•    Are you married?
•    What is your nationality?
•    Were you born in Australia?
•    Is English your first language?
•    Have you ever suffered from a mental health condition?
•    What religious holidays do you practice?
•    How long have you been in the workforce?

There could be instances where the employer needs to ascertain personal information. However, it is only ever legal when the applicant’s ability to perform the responsibilities of the position may be in question and even then, the wording of the questions cannot be as above. Two examples of possible questioning are:

Under the topic of nationality or ethnicity, particularly in the case of overseas born candidates, the employer does need to ascertain whether it is legal for you to work in Australia. Instead of asking “What is your nationality?”, they can ask if you are legally able to work within Australia and what visa you are currently on. They may also ask you for a copy of your visa.

Depending on the job, it may be required that the applicant be over 18 years old in order to legally perform the responsibilities. In these instances, it may be acceptable for the employer to ask “Are you of minimum age to perform this job?”

It’s important to try and determine what type of information the interviewer is trying to ascertain with their choice of questions. If the question is personal and not related to your ability to perform the duties required of the role, then you may choose to politely ask the interviewer why that question is relevant to the job or to say that you would prefer not to answer that question.

It’s also important to remember that the interviewer may be innocently asking these questions as a way of making conversation and they may not have been properly been trained in recruitment. So do your best to diplomatically avoid the question.

Don’t be afraid to let your Placement Consultant know if you have felt uncomfortable by any questions asked in an interview. They are there to offer a helping hand and make sure you are comfortable throughout your Work Integrated Program.

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