So you have seen an ad for a part time job vacancy and it really looks the part. You check all the specifications and you think you might be in with a chance of getting this job if you apply for it. Your experience is there, the qualifications are there, it’s close to where you live and the hours are just what you are looking for. So, you get your CV spot on and get your application in. Now it’s time to wait and see if you hear anything.
Great news. They must have loved your CV and whatever you wrote on that application form must have impressed the company, too. You have been invited to attend an interview for the part time job.
Interviews often bring with them a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement that you are so close to getting the part job but also trepidation that you could mess it all up. What if you arrive late through no fault of your own? What if you can’t answer the questions? What if you say something that you think makes you seem silly? Well, don’t worry because we have lots of hints and tips that will give you some clues as to the types of questions you might be asked and how you can answer them so that you shine at a job interview.
The Questions That Shouldn’t Come Up
But, as well as those questions about your previous work experience and why you think you might be the right person to do this part time job, there is also a set of questions that you should not be asked by the recruiter. These are the types of questions that could be illegal or deemed to be discriminatory.
What happens if the recruiter asks you any of these questions? Well, that is down to you and whatever makes you feel comfortable. If you are asked questions that you know you shouldn’t be asked, you need to make a judgement.
Why would someone ask you questions that are illegal or that could be discriminatory?
Well, on some occasions, it could be completely unintentional. If you are being interviewed for a part time job at a small local business, for example, then your interviewer could be the boss who is just genuinely interested in your background. They’re not an HR professional with a complete knowledge of how not to stray into asking discriminatory or illegal questions.
Your interviewer might be making small talk to break the ice a little and build a relationship – they’re trying to get a better idea about you as a person. And maybe they are completely unaware of the fact that their questions could be perceived to be unlawful.
Then there are occasions where you suspect your interviewer knows they shouldn’t be asking these questions – but they are asking them anyway.
In either case, you need to decide how you are going to answer the questions – if at all – when they come up. And if at any time you feel you are being discriminated against, then it might be time to decide whether you would actually want this job, anyway, should you be offered the position.
Let’s take a look at some of the interview questions that you shouldn’t be asked when you apply for part time jobs:
How many times were you off work with sickness in your last job?
Being asked about sickness is a tricky one. If there is an indication on your CV or application that you had to take a long time off work in your previous job due to sickness, then the person interviewing you can ask you to explain that long absence. This is also your chance, of course, the tell that person you are now completely better, if that is the case.
An interview question can become discriminatory if you are asked about any disabilities you may have. There are certain roles where, if you have a particular disability, you might not be able to do the job for safety reasons and in these cases, these roles are exempt. In most cases, however, an interviewer can only ask you whether or not you have any specific requirements that will help you to carry out your role effectively.
How old are you?
Be aware that there is an Age Discrimination Act and interviewers should not be asking you how old you are. Obviously, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, the interviewer might need to clarify that you are over 18 to serve alcohol or to teach a sport at a particular level.
Interviewers should not be asking about your age, however, as a way to decide whether or not your age will affect how you do a job. If you are someone looking to benefit from retirement jobs, for example, the interviewer should not ask you how long you intend to keep working before you completely retire. This is discriminatory.
If you are younger, there might be a perception that you will not be fully committed to the job. This is discriminatory, too. The interviewer should also not be asking your age in order to judge whether you might be disappearing off to travel or start a family sometime soon.
What is your religion?
Your religion is your own affair and the interviewer should not be asking you about it unless you are applying for a part time job where you are looking to be a preacher, for example. Some part time teaching roles might also require you to be of a particular religion if you are applying to a school that is affiliated to that religion.
How many children have you got? Are you starting a family soon?
We touched on this in the interview questions about age. You might well be a parent with a young family and you are looking to get back into part time work. How many children you have is irrelevant and does not affect your ability to be able to do the job you have applied for.
If you are a parent, you have probably already sorted out your childcare arrangements or you will be thinking about that should you be offered the job. Obviously, if there are childcare facilities in the workplace then your interviewer could bring that up in the interview just to make you aware of that if you do have children.
Also, the job you have applied for could have been advertised as a ‘term time job’ in order to attract a more diverse range of people, including parents with young families. The subject of children might come up in the interview in this case so it is up to you to use your judgement and decide if the discussion you are having is related to that.
If you feel the interviewer might be implying you might not be able to meet the demands of the job – longer hours on some days, for example – because you have commitments to your children you can tell them politely that you have a strong work ethic and you have applied for the job because you know you are a good candidate for the role.
‘Are you starting a family soon?’ ‘Have you got any plans to start a family?’ These are questions that should not be asked. This could indicate that the interviewer is trying to assess whether or not you are going to go off and have children in the near future, thus potentially leaving your job altogether or being away for an extended period with maternity or paternity leave.
How often do you go clubbing?
What you do with your free time – including how often you go clubbing or sitting in the pub with your friends – or anything else you choose to do in your free time – is nothing to do with your interviewer. They should only be asking you about your qualifications and any experience you have for the part time job they are interviewing you for.
Again, this can turn into a grey area because the interviewer might be asking you completely innocently about any hobbies you might have or what you like to do in your spare time. The company where you have applied for the part time job might have an active social scene or running and cycling clubs, for example. If you are enthusiastic about this sort of thing then you might want to chat about this.
But, you can also choose to concentrate on the job you are being interviewed for by asking about the relevance of the question.
Are you a member of any political organisations/pressure groups/trade unions?
Again, this is a question that is nothing to do with how well you will perform in the workplace. The only time it would be reasonable to discuss questions like this at interview is if you are applying for a role with a political organisation, for example.
If you are member of a trade union, the interviewer is not allowed to ask you directly about this and they are also not allowed to say you need to join any particular union before you start in your job. Whether or not you are a trade union member or you have strong feelings about a particular cause, you will need to think about how you choose to answer the question if it comes up. The interviewer is allowed to ask you whether you might have any conflicts of interest with regards to the job you are applying for.
Where are you from originally?
An interviewer is okay to ask you if you are legally allowed to work in the UK and to check you have all the paperwork in order that allows you to do so. But that’s it. Any further questions about whether or not you were born in the UK, where your family are from – this is not allowed. The company could be accused of hiring people – or not hiring people – because they are a particular race or from a particular ethnic background.
Are you married? What are your sexual preferences?
If you are applying for a part time job, whether or not you are married is completely irrelevant. Assumptions that you might be a more reliable member of staff because you are settled and married should not be made.
Questions about your sexual preferences are also out of bounds. Again, they have nothing to do with how you perform in the workplace so there is no reason for an interviewer to be asking questions like this.
If you don’t want to answer questions like this, you can firmly but politely explain to the interviewer that your personal life, away from the workplace is your personal life and you like to keep the two completely separate.
Have you ever been arrested? Have you got any criminal convictions?
There are some part time jobs where your past convictions – if any – will need to be checked by way of a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service). DBS checks will be done for anyone applying for part time jobs where you might come into contact with children or vulnerable people, for example.
Apart from that, the interviewer is not allowed to ask you if you have ever been charged with any offences or served time in prison for any crime. If you have been in prison and been released, you have served your time for the offence and that has no reflection on how you will perform in your job. It is against the law for an employer not to employ you purely for the fact that you have a previous criminal conviction.
How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
These are discriminatory questions and you should not be asked directly about your weight or your height.
There could be genuine practicalities attached to the part time job that you are applying for. For example, in a store room, there might be lots of high shelves and a big part of your duties would be to remove goods or place goods on the shelving. Or you might have applied for a part time job that requires a certain level of physical fitness. Lots of carrying and walking around, or lots of time working outdoors for example.
In these cases, if the interviewer is concerned about your height or fitness, they can mention specific duties that will be required of you and ask if you think you will be capable of carrying out these duties.
The only time direct questions about your height, weight or other physicalities can be asked is for roles that are exempt. These are the types of roles where you might need to operate machinery that requires you to be within certain boundaries for height or weight for safety reasons.
Make Yourself Aware
As we said at the beginning of this article, on lots of occasions, interviewers might be completely unaware that they are asking discriminatory questions or questions that are not legal. It really could be genuine interest or small talk and, if you do get asked questions like the ones above, you might well be able to judge the intention of the interviewer.
And if you don’t feel comfortable with the question, you are within your rights to be firm and polite and ask why the question is relevant to the part time job you are being interviewed for.
So, now you know how to shine at interview and you know the types of questions you shouldn’t be asked – and you the know the types of things you shouldn’t say in interview – you are all prepared. Take a look at some of the part time jobs on offer and make them yours.