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Drawing up your interview questions? Take these guidelines into account to avoid unfair discrimination

by , 04 November 2013
Believe it or not, even if you don't unfairly discriminate against a potential employee, if you ask questions that could imply unfair discrimination; you may have to defend yourself at the Labour Court. Use these guidelines when drawing up your interview questions to ensure you avoid any questions that could be discriminatory.

As you know, you can't discriminate against a job applicant. AND you mustn't ask questions that can be seen as discriminatory.

But how do you avoid discriminatory questions? How does one even determine a question is discriminatory?

It's simple.

Take the following account when drawing up your interview questions:

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service says you must consider these points when drawing up your interview questions:

#1: Criteria: Age
What to avoid:
Asking the candidate how old they are if it has nothing to do with the job requirement.
What you can ask: If, on the other hand, the candidate needs to meet a minimum or maximum age requirement that's a genuine occupational qualification, you can ask his age.

#2: Criteria: Disabilities
What to avoid:
Questions designed to elicit information about a disability.
What you can ask: How the candidate would perform the job and if he could perform the job with or without accommodation.

#3: Criteria: Height or weight requirements
What to avoid:
Height or weight requirements not related to job.
What you can ask: Height or weight requirements if they're necessary for the job. For example, horse-riding jockeys need to meet certain criteria.

#4: Criteria: Marital and family status
What to avoid:
Questions about marital status, childcare, number of children or pregnancy.
What you can ask: Questions about if the candidate can meet work schedule. Ask all questions to candidates of both sexes.

#5: Criteria: National origin
What to avoid:
Lineage, ancestry, descent, native language, birthplace and national origin of spouse or parents.
What you can ask: If a candidate's legally eligible to work in South Africa. And can communicate well enough to perform the job's essential functions.

#6: Criteria: Race or colour
What to avoid:
Complexion or colour of skin.
What you can ask: None, unless it's an inherent requirement of the job

#7: Criteria: Religion
What to avoid:
Religious preference or affiliation, unless you're a religious organisation and are hiring for positions that further the institution's religious mission.
What you can ask: If a candidate can meet the work schedule with reasonable accommodation, if necessary.

#8: Criteria: Gender
What to avoid:
Candidate's gender, where it isn't a genuine occupational qualification.
What you can ask: Candidate's gender, where it's a genuine occupational qualification, such as actor, actress or locker room attendant.

The bottom line: Make sure your interview questions:

  • Are job-related
  • Are based on an inherent requirement of the job
  • Gain an understanding of the person's ability to perform the job
  • Don't discriminate on the following grounds:
  1. Race;
  2. Gender;
  3. Ethnic or social origin;
  4. Colour;
  5. Sexual orientation;
  6. Age;
  7. Disability;
  8. Religion;
  9. Conscience;
  10. Belief;
  11. Political opinion;
  12. Culture;
  13. Language;
  14. Marital status; and
  15. Family responsibility.

Discrimination on any other grounds other than those listed above may also be unfair if they have the potential to fundamentally and negatively impact the candidate's dignity as a human being.

So take the above mentioned points into account when drawing up your interview questions to avoid unfair discrimination.

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