Years ago I was working in a large company that needed to fill a role in a fairly role where the successful candidate would have some pretty specific duties.
They’d have to work in the Middle East and at weekends. The manager of the department was straight:
“Ask them what religion they are, where they’re from and can they speak Arabic.”
I laughed and told him to leave it with me, I’ll write a set of questions for an interview that wouldn’t break the law.
His intentions were simple. He obviously needed an Arabic speaking person; that’s for sure, but why ask where they’re from? A good friend of mine is from Wolverhampton, and he has no problems speaking a number of languages, including French, Arabic, Russian and Spanish. What the manager thought was that by knowing where they’re from, he’ll be able to judge how good they’d be.
Religion, though? There are clear laws on discrimination and it’s made quite plain that asking someone their religion is not on. But why was he asking this?
His reasoning was that some religions are clear on what days they can and cannot work, and so by finding out what their religion was, he could make that judgement.
This is why we have laws. It’s not up to anyone else to decide what someone can and cannot do based on a prejudiced position. Instead, we should simply ask if they can work on the days required.
For example: “The job requires working on a Saturday and Sunday, will that be a problem?”
If the answer is “no”, then you know they’re the person for the job.
Consider your questions carefully
If you have a set of questions that you really do need to ask, then you have to consider how they can be asked in another way. Write them all down and then ask yourself, “why do I need to know this?”
All of your questions should relate to the role, the person that’s needed to fill that role and the expectations when in that role. Any questions that skirt on any protected characteristics should be avoided at all costs.