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Last updated: 15.08.2023

The rules of a job interview – is the employer allowed to ask any questions?

Can the employer do a Google search about the applicant? Can you be asked about how many children you have in a job interview? Read here what the law says about the employer’s rights and restrictions in the job application process.

What information is an employer allowed to get about an applicant?

As a rule, the employer must get all personal data for the job application process from the applicant. For this purpose, the employer may ask the applicant to provide various certificates. The employer is not allowed to collect any data without the consent of the applicant. The consent is also required for any data collected from information networks, including from the Internet via a search engine by “Googling”.

The same guideline also applies to requesting personal data from referees and former employers. If the applicant has consented to obtaining the information, the employer should indicate when the information will be obtained.

The employer has the right to obtain personal credit information or criminal record information to determine the employee’s trustworthiness. This information can be obtained without the employee’s consent only in accordance with strict criteria, i.e. when the job or the place of work gives a reason and justification for it. The employee must be informed of the acquisition of the information in advance. The employer may only obtain credit information for a person who has been selected for a job.

In the service sector, such stricter criteria are mainly related to secure collection and delivery, security guard duties, and unsupervised cleaning and housekeeping duties in private homes. In the service sector, mainly airports are places of work where security clearance from the police may be required.

Can the employer ask you any questions in an interview?

During the interview, you should listen carefully to the questions and consider your answers. You should be honest but also think about how to answer the questions and whether not to say something. There are certain things that the employer is not allowed to ask in a job interview as a rule. In such a case, the question can be left unanswered or answered incompletely.

According to the opinion of the Ombudsman for Equality, asking questions about parenthood or family care responsibilities in connection with employment violates the Equality Act.

Therefore, the following questions are prohibited:

  • Questions about family relations or marital status
  • Questions about pregnancy
  • Questions about plans to have children
  • Questions about the number of children
  • Questions about how to arrange childcare.

Asking the questions cannot be justified by the fact that answering them is voluntary.

According to the law, an employer may only process personal data that is immediately necessary for the employee’s employment relationship during the recruitment. An employer’s right to collect personal data by asking for it in a job interview must be considered from the perspective of the job position applied for. It is mainly necessary to get information that demonstrates the applicant’s competence and suitability for the position in question. In addition, health information that is immediately relevant to managing the employment is necessary. According to the law, the requirement for necessity cannot be deviated from, even with the applicant’s consent.

Do I have to answer every question?

In principle, the applicant may choose not to answer a question that is not necessary from the point of view of the employment.

Such questions include questions about

  • Performance or non-performance of military service
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Alcohol use
  • Political conviction
  • Family or other persons.

The opinion of the Data Protection Ombudsman is also cautious about questions of the type “what do you expect from life” and “tell us about your background, family and hobbies”. Such questions and the information they yield are generally not justified and necessary for recruitment or employment.

However, in practice, the situation is often such that not answering may harm the chances of getting a job. However, based on the requirement for necessity, the applicant may provide an incomplete answer to a question that is not directly related to the employment. According to the explanatory memorandum of the relevant legislation, giving an incomplete answer must not lead to negative consequences for the applicant.

It is also forbidden to ask about consenting to a drug test, and you are not obligated to provide a certificate of one. However, the employer may disregard an applicant in the recruitment process who does not provide a certificate to the employer – especially if the legal requirements for a drug test are met.

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