Inappropriate questions

We all know that employing people is a tricky business, but so is finding the right person for the job.

Remember the Two Ronnies sketch? You can’t advertise for a busty barmaid to work in the West Country, so Ronnie Barker’s suggestion was that you advertised for bar staff big in the Bristol area.

Interviewing is getting harder and harder as employment laws tighten still further. A couple of weeks ago I was shocked to hear some of the questions being asked in job interviews even now in corporate offices, who, quite frankly, should know better.

I decided to do a bit of research into the questions being asked and here are my favourites…

Let’s start with obvious no-nos.

A female friend who has relocated from Ireland to the UK was asked by a potential employer ‘what if you have an argument with your boyfriend and decide to go running home?’

Ouch… apart from the obvious illegality of the question, how on earth was my friend supposed to answer? It was more of an accusation than a question.

How about this one?

I was asked to do the final interviews for a Chief Exec for a ‘traditional’ company. It was between two candidates, one bloke and one lady. The owner came to me just before the final interviews and proudly told me that there was no need to ask the lady whether she was going to have babies because he’d already done it and she’d told him that she wasn’t!


Now I was hoping and praying that the lady would be the stronger candidate otherwise we were going to be on very thin ice. Needless to say she wasn’t and the job was offered to the fella. We spent the next six weeks or so hoping and praying that we’d got away with it.

My own personal favourite from just a couple of weeks ago was in a major utility company who asked another friend of mine who was being interviewed for a Senior Project Manager position. He was asked… ‘If you were a tree what sort of tree would you be and why?’

The job of an interviewer is encourage interviewees to perform at their very best and create the environment in which they can do it. It’s not to put people under added pressure, to see how they react or cope. They’re under enough pressure in any case.

So, please, if you’re interviewing for staff, make sure your questions are appropriate and that you know why you’re asking them.

Please leave a comment - we all like them