The No Nos: What Not To Ask In Job Interview

A majority of employment seekers say a bad job interview experience will make them question whether they want the role at all, writes Kirstie McDermott.

The interview process

Unless you are a trained HR pro with lots of experience and recruiting hours under your belt, it’s highly likely you’ll find the whole staff recruitment process a bit of a faff at best, and extremely stressful at worst.  

Getting it wrong can be a pricey business. Elmo Software, a HR solutions company, in partnership with the Australian HR Institute, polled 1,500 HR professionals across Australia and New Zealand and found that the cost to hire an employee more than doubled in 2021 to $23,860 per worker. That compared to 2020’s figure of $10,500. 

If you are only hiring once or twice a year, it can be tough to get into the groove too. One solution is to create a clear plan of action you can roll out every time you need to add or replace a role in your business.  

We’ve previously looked at some of the steps involved in streamlining the process. Check out our guides to writing a tailored job description, how to plan an interview and discover some of the key questions you should ask, too. 

But what about the questions you shouldn’t ask a candidate? It is really important to get this right as well. After all, an interview is a two-way street, and in the same way that you are assessing a candidate’s suitability for the job, they are deciding whether they want to come and work for you.  

A bad interview – and bad questions – can be the deciding factor in whether you make the cut. 65% of job seekers say a horrible interview experience will make them question whether they want the job at all. 

So, in order to avoid that happening, here are some questions to definitely steer clear of the next time you’ve got some roles to fill. 

Vague ones 

When you don’t have a clear interview plan laid out in advance, it will show in a couple of ways. Your questions won’t be targeted, and therefore will be ineffective in getting an understanding of the candidate’s skills and experiences, so you won’t really know at the end of the session if they are a fit for the job.  

The other side of asking vague questions is that a candidate may perceive this as inexperience or unpreparedness on your part, and be put off from taking the process any further.  

Aim to ask questions that are tailored to the job description, and ask the candidate a set of structured, situational questions about the various tasks and responsibilities. Depending on the role you are recruiting for, you will want to get a handle on their technical, creative or sales skills. You’ll also need to be sure that their interpersonal and communication skills, and management and decision making skills are up to speed too.  

Leading ones 

Asking an interview subject a question such as, “Are you good at planning”, or “Are you a good communicator” is going to lead to an answer that starts, and likely finishes with a “yes.” You won’t learn anything helpful if you take this approach. 

Instead, ask candidates questions formulated along the lines of, “Tell me about a time when you used communication to solve a problem”, or “Give me an example of how you would plan the roll-out of a new beauty launch in-store”. This way, your interviewee has to think on their feet and provide you with the necessary information relating to the question. Their answer will let you know if, indeed, they are that good communicator or planner you’re hoping to hire. 

Illegal ones 

There are a number of topics and areas you simply cannot broach in a job interview. You can’t ask potential hires questions about sexual orientaion, age, ethnicity, religious views, family planning or pregnancy, political leanings or anything about physical or mental disabilities. 

You should also aim to avoid questions that bait an interviewee, or anything that is overly personal. Sometimes interviewers like to take a combative approach, seeing if they can trip candidates up. You should absolutely seek to avoid this: you are trying to get the best out of the person you are interviewing, and this approach will only seek to intimidate and silence candidates. 

If you want to post your job to our Professional Beauty Job Board, get in touch today. And if you’re more interested in exploring your career potential, browse all the open positions waiting for your application. 

This article was produced in a partnership with Jobbio.

Read the current issue of our digital magazine here:

Have an idea for a story or want to see a topic covered on our site and in our pages? Get in touch at

Back to top