Leadership Blog

Posted By: Eva Grabner | on June 26 2019

Can an Interviewer actually ask that?

There are some things that future employers can ask you in a job interview, and there are those they cannot.  Surprisingly, those questions are not always what you would expect.

In Australia there are laws that make it unlawful for employers to ask applicants discriminatory questions.  There are circumstances, however, when you may be asked a question that you are not expecting and one that is perfectly legitimate.  For example, you can be asked if you smoke.

Laws are different from state to state and in VIC and QLD an employer cannot ask a question that resembles discrimination unless they can demonstrate that the information is required for a purpose and does not involve discrimination.

Here are a few questions that an employer can ask you so ensure you are prepared and informed for your next job interview:

  • What age are you? Generally, your age is irrelevant but in some situations such as the service of alcohol, questions about your age can be asked.  Once you have secured the position then an employer will need to know your date of birth for superannuation and taxation reasons which is perfectly lawful.
  • Do you have the rights to work in Australia? Employers are entitled to ask you to provide them with proof of your right to work in this country, however discrimination on the base of race or ethnicity is an absolute no.  Be sure to read the Australian Human Rights Commission’s guide to discrimination in the workplace, however, there are exceptions for example where there may be a genuine requirement for an employee to be of, or have connections with, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage.  In these cases, an employer may advertise for an ‘identified position’.
  • If you have medical problems. Asking questions about your health or requesting that you undergo a pre-employment medical is lawful but questions about your health must be related to the potential health risks associated with the job or the industry and your ability to perform specific elements of the job.
  • Do you have a criminal record? It is perfectly okay for an employer to ask this, however, there are limits on how they are used and, in some states, it is dependent on your ability to perform the inherent requirements of the job.  A conviction for violence, for example, may not be relevant for a job handling money, whereas a theft conviction may be.
  • If an employer wants to run a credit check on you. Employers can do so, provided they have a legitimate reason for doing so, for example, if the job involves dealing with money or financial administration.  However, your consent must be provided first.

If you are unsure about a question or request during an interview, you can obtain advice from Fair Work Australia.


Eva Grabner
Managing Director

Elite Executive Pty Ltd


0409 59 11 88