Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Three out of four UK job seekers are asked ‘off-limits’ questions in an interview

Latest survey from TopCV and CV-Library reveals most common inappropriate interview topics

According to new joint research conducted by TopCV, the largest CV-writing service in the world, and CV-Library, one of the UK’s largest online job sites, 73 per cent of nearly 2,000 professionals surveyed have been asked an inappropriate or illegal question during an interview.

In fact, when asked about the types of topics they’ve been questioned about in an interview, the following areas were identified as those which interviewees are most commonly quizzed on:

  • Marital status (38%)
  • Age (34%)
  • Criminal convictions (32%)
  • Disability and illness (25%)
  • Children and family planning (25%)
  • Place of birth or ethnicity (25%)
  • Lifestyle choices (E.g. Do you smoke? How much do you typically drink?) (19%)
  • Memberships or affiliations (14%)
  • Religion (12%)
  • Gender or sexual orientation (11%)

In addition, when asked if they’d like to provide an example anonymously, over 100 people wanted to share their ‘off-limits’ stories with the survey and some of the responses that came back were startling. Questions ranged from ‘Why should we hire a person of your age and not someone younger?’ to ‘Have staff ever been distracted by your good looks?’

Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at TopCV, commented:

“While most interview questions are asked as a genuine way to evaluate a candidate’s ability to do the job, some may steer toward an unprofessional or downright illegal place. When it comes to obtaining personal information, responses could impact their candidacy because of discrimination or bias - regardless if it’s done intentionally.

“For anyone who is unsure, any personal or sensitive information is usually off-limits, unless it is specifically relevant to the job for which you are applying. If you feel uncomfortable answering, don't be afraid to say so.”

“Interviewing for a new job is a nerve-wracking affair, even for those with years of experience under their belt. While it’s standard practice to be asked questions about previous work experience, as well as personal qualities or skills, in an interview, other questions are less acceptable. This includes anything relating to a candidate’s age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of national origin or birthplace, disability or family plans”, says Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library.

For more information about your rights when it comes to interview questions, you can visit

To read more about illegal interview questions, and importantly, how to avoid answering them, head over to TopCV’s blog.