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5.3 Inclusive Interviews

The interview stage is probably the first time you have met the applicant or heard them over the phone.  Be careful not to make instant, personal and sometimes unfair judgments about someone’s suitability because of their protected characteristic.

Good Equality Interview Practice:

  • Focus on finding out if they have the skills, qualities and experience needed to do the job.

  • Don’t ask questions either directly or indirectly related to applicants’ protected characteristics.  This is because this information is highly unlikely to be relevant to whether someone has the skills to do the job or not and may suggest to an applicant that you intend to discriminate, putting you at risk of a tribunal claim. 

  • Have more than one person to do the interviewing, as this can help avoid unintentional bias against people with particular protected characteristics.

  • Be flexible over the date and time of the interview or test and give adequate notice; this will help applicants who may have particular family responsibilities or requirements of religious observance.  It will also be helpful to some disabled candidates who may need reasonable adjustments in relation to the timing of the interview or test.

  • Keep a record of the interview, and keep the notes for 12 months.  If an applicant wants to complain, they are entitled to see the notes.  This could be important evidence to show that you have not discriminated.

  • Ask similar job-related questions of all the applicants, although this does not stop you asking an applicant about a particular aspect of their past experience or about a gap in their work record.

  • If you set a test, make sure that the test relates to the requirements of the job.  Tests should test an applicant’s ability to do the job or to be trained for it, taking into account any reasonable adjustments which would enable a disabled person to do the job.

  • If you test anything else, then there is a risk that you will be basing your decision on information which unnecessarily disadvantages people with particular protected characteristics.

  • Except in particular circumstances, questions about disability or health must not be asked at the interview stage or at any other stage before the offer of a job (whether conditional or not) has been made, or where the person has been accepted into a pool of applicants to be offered a position when one becomes available.

  • Ensuring venues used are accessible for applicants by referring to webpage: Physical Access Guide for the University this would ensure interviews are held in suitable rooms for applicants who have declared any mobility issues relating to disability, injury or pregnancy.  

Suggested Alternative Interview Questions:

Sex/Gender + Carers Discriminatory Questions: Suggested Alternative (if vital to ask as part of the requirements of the job):

“Who would look after your children if your manager asked you to work late at short notice?”

“About once per month, the demands of the job might require you to work up to one hour later than normal at short notice.  How would you respond if asked to do this?”

“How would your husband/wife feel if your job meant you had to travel away on University business twice a month?”

“The job requires travelling away on University business twice a month.  Can you tell me the extent to which you would be able to comply with that essential requirement as part of your job?”

“Are you and your husband planning to have children in the next few years?”

“What are your career aims over the next three to five years?”

“How do you feel you would be able to fit into an all-male/female team?”

“Describe your experiences of working as a member of a team.” Note that applicants are able to be provided with a tour of the working environment and meet with colleagues during the process.

Age Discriminatory Questions:

Suggested Alternative (if vital to ask as part of the requirements of the job):
"You seem a lot younger than your CV indicated."
No substitute.
"You are very young. Do you think that you would be able to manage people far older than you?" "This role involves management responsibilities. Talk me through your management experience."
"This role requires someone who can adapt quickly to new methods and absorb training. Do you think that you are too old to be able to do that?"
"Give me some examples of when you have been asked to change your role/been given training, and describe how you adapted to it."



Human Resources

University of St Andrews
The Old Burgh School

Abbey Walk
St Andrews
KY16 9LB
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0)1334 463096