Advice for employers when conducting job interviews

Two men and a woman sitting on one side of a table, talking to a man sitting on the other side of the table, as in a job interview style.

This story was first published on Thursday 3 January 2019. If you wish to use this content, please contact to confirm that the information is still current.

Conducting job interviews can be challenging for business owners.

In Australia, employers are required by law to avoid discrimination when recruiting staff.

When preparing interview questions employers need to think about what questions will help them determine the right candidate for the job, and ensure that these questions aren’t biased, discriminatory or illegal.

Questions about topics including age, gender, parental status and disability should raise a red flag.

To help employers choose which interview questions to ask, the Department of Jobs and Small Business outlines the below tips for employers.

Strengths and weaknesses

A favourite question of many interviewers is to ask ‘What are your greatest strengths?’ or ‘What are your weaknesses?’

This question is potentially problematic if the interviewee has an illness or disability.

It’s better for employers to instead ask questions that focus on the candidate’s specific experience, skills, and the attributes they can bring to the job.

Employers should consider asking ’What would you like to get better at?’ or ’What would you do differently if you had the chance to do that particular job again?’

The wisdom of age

Age discrimination exists and (unfortunately) persists when employers hire staff. In the Australian Human Resources Institute 2015 Older Workers Pulse survey, almost 30% of the 1,655 human resource personnel interviewed responded yes to a question asking whether age discrimination existed in hiring.

It’s not advisable to ask a potential candidate how old they are, or ‘What are your retirement plans?’ Even the question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ can be problematic if the applicant is mature age.

The better way to ask about someone’s future goals and ambitions is to ask, ‘How do you see yourself contributing to this workplace in the short and longer term?’


If you ask your interviewee if they have children (even during small talk before the interview) and they miss out on the job, they may feel it was because they revealed that they have children. This could lead to them making a complaint of discrimination based on their parental status.

Instead of asking if they have children, employers should ask questions about fulfilling the requirements of the job.

For example, if the job requires late hours or interstate travel, and the employer needs to be reasonably assured the candidate would be available to do that, employers should address those needs specifically. A question that does this is ‘This job would require you to regularly travel interstate overnight. Is that something you would be able to do?’

Pregnant pause

It may be reasonable for an employer to ask a person about their pregnancy if there is a legitimate health or safety concern. However, employers should only bring this up if there is a real likelihood that the work would pose a risk to the person’s health and safety.

Don't dis their ability

In certain circumstances an employer may ask a candidate for information about their disability, for instance to determine whether the person would be able to perform the requirements of the job.

The employer might also need this information to identify if any adjustments need to be made to their workplace.

To ensure that the focus remains on the requirements of the job or adjustments and not the disability, employers should seek to understand how the disability might affect the candidate’s ability to do the job, what strategies they would use and what adjustments they might need. The skills and experience of the candidate should also be discussed.

More information

Read the jobactive blog article You can’t ask that (can you?) for more advice on interview questions employers should avoid asking and why.

Read the Australian Human Rights Commission: A step-by-step guide to preventing discrimination in recruitment for advice on recruitment.

Correct at time of publication.