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Recruitment Advice: What You Can’t Ask For In A Job Description

When you create a job description for your business, you have to make sure you are not discriminating against a candidate unfairly. Some forms of discrimination are more subtle than you might realise, putting your company at risk. To help you out, here is a list of what you want to watch out for.

There is a very clear line between the things you shouldn’t do and the things you can’t do. Check out this page from for more information. Click here.

What Is Discrimination?

Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of qualities such as race, age, sex, and disability. 

What Are Protected Characteristics, And Why Are They Protected?

Protected characteristics are defined under the 2010 Equality Act and are designed to protect target groups from discrimination. In general, these characteristics are traits that people are born with and have no or little control over them or the ability to change them (even if they wanted to).

The protected characteristics and what you cannot ask about in a job advert or an interview include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Sexual preference
  • Marital status
  • Parental status
  • Race
  • Religion or beliefs

Why Are Certain Characteristics Protected?

Specific characteristics are protected to prevent employers and recruiters from unfairly favouring or discriminating candidates unfairly based on qualities that do not affect their ability to perform in the role. 

Grey Areas In Job Advertising

However, it is essential to note that there are some grey areas as these genuinley impact the business. For example, in one of our articles, we write about a job being advertised for naked cleaners, which had previously seen some heat over hiring only female employees. However, there is an argument for only females applying for the role.

Similarly, modelling women’s clothes is a job for women. There are also things such as lookism and whether it is fair to discriminate against someone because of how they look. Spent criminal convictions are another issue, creating conversation on whether it is right to disregard candidates that have served their time. There is a lot of debate around this topic and where these characteristics cross over with business models.

Favouring Candidates With Protected Characteristics

There are also cases where employers can hire lower qualified candidates if they feel as though they are underrepresented within a company. For example, a company looking to target young people as a new audience might seek a young candidate to advise.

Consider Where You Advertise

You should make sure that your job advertising takes place in spaces with a broad customer base or a variety of specialised audiences. If you advertise only in publications targeting a protected characteristic group, this could be considered discrimination.


In summary, we would recommend offering as little descriptive information as possible in a job advert. 

If you feel you may have been a victim of discrimination for a role or within a workplace setting, you should follow the guidelines laid out by Citizens Advice in the articles If you think you’ve been unfairly treated when applying for a job and Before you take action about discrimination.

For further assistance in writing job descriptions, check out our template library and download our free CV template. We also provide job advertising packages so you can avoid high agency fees and build a quality talent pool for future recruitment.

Next, read Should I advertise My Job On More Than One Site? and What To Include In A Job Description.

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