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Job interviews in Austria – Which questions are (not) okay?

Inspired by a Facebook group thread that I commented this on, I want to share some insights into what is legal to ask in job interviews – and what is not.

The basic principle is that questions should always bear relevance for the actual postion that you are being interviewed for.

Also, please note that some questions are still considered ok to ask (by that I mean also okay by law) that are frowned upon in other jurisdictions. Here’s to give you some insight:

issues of family/family planning

Questions like “Are you pregnant? Are you planning to become pregnant? Do you want children?” are not okay. You can decide not to answer, or give a wrong answer. If you’re not hired because of your family planning, you may have a case for discrimination.

children

Questions like: “Who takes care of your children? How do you divide childcare? Who looks after the child when it is sick?” are also inadmissible, because discrimination might occur here if the answers do not please the employer.

your origin

Questions like: “Where did you grow up? What do your parents do for a living? What did your grandparents do for a living? What is your relationship to your parents?” might appear inappropriate but will be permissible in most cases (unless, of course the interviewer glides off into a rant for example on how he hates Canadians as a people, because they all steal, etc).

money

Questions like: “What are your financial circumstances? How much did you earn in your last (or current) job? Is there a wage garnishment? Do you have debts? Do you pay alimony?”. This will mostly be okay, although unpleasant. Especially if you are working in a job in finance, this question bears relevance as to how you handle money in general.

prior criminal convictions

In general, prior convictions should only have a bearing if relevant for the job (if you have been convicted of embezzlement, a job in the banking industry may require disclosure). In other cases, you may be entitled to not disclose your “criminal past”. However, most employers in Austria ask for a police clearance report that would then also disclose your prior convictions. If you refuse to provide one (despite it being standard practice in most companies) this will likely be taken as suspicious behavior, reducing your chances of scoring the job.

religion

No need to answer this (there used to be a reason as people of certain faiths got some days off by law, while others did not; this has since been modified)

marital status

Standard question in Austria. not considered discriminatory in general. If they however said something along the lines of “sorry, we only hire single people”, this may be illegal unless the employer can provide a legitimate reason

health

the employer has no right to know about your health status, unless (i) certain health issues may be incompatible with your job (example off the top of my head: being colorblind or suffering from epilepsy as fighter jet pilot) or (ii) if you suffer from an infectious disesase that may harm other employees.

Have you suffered discrimination?

Should you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, be it in the hiring process or everyday work, please reach out to us.