A Candidate’s Perspective: Biased, (and Even Illegal) Interview QuestionsRobin Lon 20 January 2022 at 3:00 pm RecruitingDaily


In terms of hiring, the interview is the ballroom moment for candidates and interviewers alike. First impressions are difficult to overcome, and the interview sets the tone for the organization whether the candidate is hired or not, especially when biases, discrimination or even just inconsiderate interview questions comes into play. 

For the sake of perspective, let’s take a look at a story that one candidate shared regarding how bias affected her interview experience. 

The Story

My interview was the common live virtual setup. We used Zoom, a recruiter took center screen and the hiring manager joined in the background. Of course, we all said hello, talked about the weather then commenced. 

The interview started off okay.  I was asked to walk through my resume and then describe my responsibilities in my most recent role. But then the questions became more personal, uncomfortable and potentially illegal: 

How do you spend your weekends?

How long have you had your TikTok account?

Are you married?

How many children do you have?

How are you going to spend your Christmas?

Do you smoke or use alcohol?

I felt the questions were invasive and as if I was being judged on aspects of my life that had nothing to do with my skill set. This made the situation very uneasy for me. There were even a few minutes when the interviewers made a joke about an internal situation that I should not have been privy to. 

Speaking from a candidate’s eye-view, I felt disrespected and as if my time was not valued, wasted even. I was offered the position and did not accept. Based on the interview and the people responsible for making me feel welcome at the organization, there were too many red-flags to abide by and I don’t think it would have been an inclusive environment where I would feel comfortable working. 

What Went Wrong in This Scenario?

Unfortunately, the scenario above is repeated frequently in various organizations and throughout multiple industries. Many times the hiring team members conducting the interview are not properly prepared and are simply ignorant to what can and cannot be asked during a job interview. 

If the interview isn’t planned in advance and interviewers are not trained on how to conduct themselves, the organization may be held liable for any damages.

If not informed on how to conduct an interview, most interviewers naturally default to their own biases. It’s been reported that lawyers, bankers, consultants and other professionals tend to look for someone like themselves in interviews. This can obviously lead to gender-biased hiring based on job titles, racial discrimination, ageism as well as many other biases.

And it’s not just candidates witnessing biases in interviews. Recent data reveals that 42% of recruiters believe interview bias is a problem in traditional interviews. The fact is, some questions just simply should not be asked by a hiring team. There is no in between; questions are either okay or they are not.

A safe, inclusive and legal hiring practice may feel like an out-of-reach ceiling when we read stories like the above. The truth is, however, properly trained hiring teams have the tools at hand to ensure best practices are being used. Interview questions should not be a guessing game.  

What You Can Do

The first thing a hiring team can do is strive to remove bias from the interview process. Organizations can use technology platforms like Clovers.ai to help hiring teams deliver a consistent and compliant interview process that helps remove bias and unconscious influencers that create it.

Once the candidate answers a question, the interviewer tends to take side roads to dive deeper into that particular topic. They go down certain paths in hopes of learning more about the character of the candidate. They ask questions like, “What are some of your hobbies?” and, “Do you enjoy living in the city?” to get to know the candidate. 

There are many interviewing tools the hiring team can use to help guide them in the process of asking the right questions of a candidate. Clovers provides interviewers live, guided questions in real-time to help them stay on track. You can also check out their Essential Checklist for Inclusive Interviewing that offers guidance on how to avoid asking biased, discriminating and illegal interview questions. 

A candidate will (hopefully) come prepared for the interview and the hiring team should do the same. Being casual is not a negative, but it is the responsibility of the hiring team to protect the integrity of the candidate experience. This guide from Clovers.ai  provides a list of to-dos for hiring teams.

Survey the Candidates

Feedback on a hiring team’s performance from the candidate, hired or not, helps the organization understand better where they are passing or failing in the interview process, as well as be better organized and informed in the future. This is especially important in terms of biases, which are often unconscious. 

What a candidate experiences, especially if negative, will be shared. Spreading a bad experience via word-of-mouth is one of the most damaging “reviews” a company can receive. 

From a candidate’s perspective, it’s stressful enough job-hunting and going through all it takes to get to the interview. The hiring team should be professional and prepared to ask job-related questions and treat each candidate as if they’re just as important as any new employee.

To keep a flow of great talent, a company needs to maintain a clean reputation, understand the candidate’s perspective, follow-up respectively and be conscious of biases during the interview process and beyond, of course.

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In terms of hiring, the interview is the ballroom moment for candidates and interviewers alike. First impressions are difficult to overcome, and the interview sets the tone for the organization… Read more
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