How to Respond to Illegal Interview Questions

How to Respond to Illegal Interview QuestionsAn interviewer will try to elicit as much information about you as possible, mostly through perfectly legal questioning. Many established companies have rigid interview questionnaires designed to avoid these hazards, but often simple yet illegal questions are prepared.

As a general rule any questions that reveal your ethnic or social origin, sexual orientation, age, religion, belief, political opinion, culture, marital status or family responsibility are inappropriate.

In terms of South African Labour Legislation, section 2(1)(a) of Schedule 7 of the Labour Relations Act of 1995, defines an unfair labour practice as one involving,

‘the unfair discrimination, either directly or indirectly, against an employee on any arbitrary ground, including but not limited to race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, marital status or family responsibility’.

Section 2(2)(a) of the same schedule made section 2(1)(a) applicable to applications for employment.

Sections 2(2)(b) & (c) provides that the anti-discrimination clause does not prevent employers ‘from adopting policies and practices that are designed to achieve the adequate protection and advancement of persons or groups, or categories of persons disadvantaged by unfair discrimination’ nor does it prevent employers from differentiating between applicants or employees on the grounds of ‘the inherent requirements of a particular job’.

How to respond to Illegal interview questions

The interviewee should recognise these questions for what they are and weather they affect the interviewee’s ability to perform the inherent requirements of the job or not. The interviewee may choose to briefly answer such questions if they are comfortable doing so, respond to the intent of the question, politely avoid it by telling the interviewer that the question doesn’t seem to be legal nor relevant to the specific requirements of the job; or the interviewee may choose to end the interview.

You might want to consider that most discrimination is not deliberate. In many cases the interviewer may simply be ignorant of the law. Even though the interviewer may have asked an illegal question it doesn’t automatically mean that the interviewer’s intent was to discriminate.

We’ve compiled the following illegal interview questions that are often mistaken as appropriate:
How old are you?
Are you married?
Do you have children?
Do you have any pre-existing health conditions?
Have you ever been arrested?
What religious holidays do you celebrate?
What is your Nationality?
That’s an unusual name, what does it mean?

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