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What if you were asked about your sex life during an interview?

Emma O'Leary
sex life

It’s not unusual for interviewers to ask candidates questions that try to extract an idea about their personality rather than just their aptitude for the job directly.  Asking what their interests are, what animal you would be etc. is pretty typical but one company saw fit to ask about a candidate’s sex life.

Dr Angela Stienne, a PhD Researcher at the University of Leicester, was asked to complete a personality test ahead of an interview for a business company.  One of the questions asked her to indicate whether she agreed or disagreed with the statement ‘I enjoy having sex with people I hardly know’. Not only did Dr Stienne complain to the company and immediately withdraw herself from the interview process, she also took to Twitter to express her disbelief at this ‘personality test’.

Emma O’Leary is an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group. She says: “Quite apart from the other random and irrelevant statements Dr Stienne was asked to agree or disagree with on this so-called personality test, the first was the most shocking and inappropriate”.

“The do’s and don’ts of the recruitment process have been well documented so as to avoid discriminatory conduct.  Do ask about the relevant skills and experience of the candidate; don’t ask if they plan to have children any time soon.  To ask about their sex life lies so far away from the don’t column, it’s ridiculous that it was ever considered to be a reasonable question to ask applicants.

We can only guess at what the company was hoping it would indicate about a candidate’s personality, whichever way they answered the question. Given that their response to Dr Stienne’s complaint was reportedly “It was recommended to me by Dr XX, as a PhD student you should find him fascinating”, they are clearly completely lacking in understanding as to what constitutes appropriate workplace behaviour.

“Needless to say this statement is more than capable of causing offence to an applicant who is required to complete it by making them feeling embarrassed and degraded in a sexual manner.  This is harassment and it is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010. It applies equally to men and women, who could say that because they did not answer in the way the company expected or wanted them to that their application was rejected in breach of the equality legislation.  It’s simply unlawful. In the current climate especially, it’s appalling to think that someone involved in the recruitment process at this organisation thought that this was a good idea!”