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These questions do not necessarily fit into a category themselves but the following questions regarding residence and military service should surprisingly be avoided if you would like to stay on the right side of the law.

Illegal: "How far is your commute?"

Hiring candidates who live close by may be desirable however it is discriminated to choose candidates based on their location. Instead, you should find out their availability by asking questions such as "Are you able to start work at 8 am?"

Illegal: "Do you live nearby?"

Once again you cannot discriminate based on location - even if it could potentially mean that a prospective candidate would possibly have to move to a different area to make it possible to travel to work every day. Questions such as "Are you willing to relocate" should be used to find out this information.

Illegal: "Have you ever been arrested?"

Within the more "sensitive" sales positions, like those who deal with money, it may be necessary for you to find out about potential employee's legal fortitude. However, ensure that you only ask directly about crimes that relate to your concern by asking questions such as "Have you ever been convicted of "y" (fraud, theft etc)?"

Illegal: "Were you honourably discharged from the military?"

Yes, a bad military record can be illuminating however you mustn't ask about this. Conversely ask about the candidates experience and they may actually volunteer this information on their own accord. Questions such as "tell me how your experience in the military can benefit the company", "what lessons did you learn in the Army", etc. are acceptable.

Illegal: "Are you a member of the Territorial Army/Special Constabulary/Other Volunteer Force?"

If an employee is lost due to military service it can be extremely disrupting for a team, but it is vital that you don't discriminate based on assumptions of a candidates upcoming military commitments. Instead, find out what their plans are for the short term by asking "Do you have any upcoming events that would require extensive time away from work?"

To Conclude

You can avoid asking the wrong questions by developing a formal interview form and using this as a basic outline for interviewers. If this is used for all candidates it will document that you asked each interviewee the same questions and failing to do this, may ultimately establish a pattern that could be discriminatory.

As an employer, I am sure that you want to create a healthy workplace therefore ensure that you avoid asking 'illegal' questions during the interview, especially seeing that there is a great deal of legal risk involved in asking such questions that can be so very easily avoided.  For further advice read our advice sheet on Equal Opportunities at Work for Small Businesses taken from our extensive client library.