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Recruitment interviewing

Updating author: Lynda Macdonald


The key purpose of a selection interview is to assess the skills, experience and general background of a particular candidate in order to make a decision on whether that person is a suitable candidate, or the most suitable candidate, for a particular job. Interviewing is the most commonly used method of assessing prospective employees. The interview should also be a forum through which each candidate can obtain information about the organisation and the vacant job. The selection interview should thus be structured around a two-way communication process.

  • The core provisions of the Equality Act 2010, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland (but not to Northern Ireland), came into force on 1 October 2010.
  • The Equality Act 2010 largely consolidates and replaces previous anti-discrimination legislation, ie the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1661), the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1660) and the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1031).
  • The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against job applicants (and existing workers) because of a "protected characteristic". The protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
  • The employer will be liable in law for any claims of discrimination brought to an employment tribunal following a discriminatory interview irrespective of whether there was any intent on the part of the interviewer to discriminate. (See Discrimination in interviewing)
  • Managers involved in recruitment have a duty to conduct selection interviews fairly and without bias for or against any particular candidate. (See Recognising prejudices)
  • Where something about a job applicant creates a favourable first impression on the interviewer, this is known as the "halo effect". This may cloud the interviewer's ability to view the candidate objectively. (See Recognising prejudices)
  • It can be dangerous to allow gut feeling alone to determine the selection decision, because gut feelings are inevitably influenced by personal attitudes to begin with. (See Recognising prejudices)
  • Questions asked at interview should be designed to obtain relevant information about the applicant's experience and skills, check facts, test achievement and assess aptitude and potential. (See Interview questions)
  • Employment tribunals have tended to view interview questions to women about marriage plans and childcare arrangements as discriminatory. (See Avoiding discriminatory questions)
  • Discrimination can be inferred not only from the questions that are asked, but also from the reasons why they are asked and the purpose to which the answers are put. (See Asking everyone the same questions)
  • Although care must be taken not to ask discriminatory questions, interviewers should not be reluctant to ask direct and probing questions at interview, as it is important to investigate any areas of the candidate's background that might be problematic. (See Asking direct and probing questions)
  • Where a disabled job applicant is to be interviewed, the person responsible for setting up the interview should take steps to establish whether any special arrangements are necessary. (See Interviewing a disabled candidate)
  • There is no duty on job applicants under the Equality Act 2010 to disclose a disability to their prospective employer. (See Establishing whether or not a disabled candidate can perform the job)
  • It is potentially discriminatory on the ground of disability to ask a job applicant questions about his or her health or disability before making a job offer to that person, although there are some exceptions to this rule. (See Establishing whether or not a disabled candidate can perform the job)