Job Interview Questions You Cannot Ask

Job Interview Questions To Ask (And Not To Ask)

Job interviews are a pivotal part of the hiring process in both provincially and federally regulated working environments in Canada. When a job applicant applies for a position, an interview is often the next step if the candidate shows promise. However, employers and job applicants should be keenly aware of the types of job interview questions that are appropriate to ask and those that are off-limits during the interview, as asking the wrong job interview questions can have serious legal consequences for the hiring company.

Understanding The Job Interview Process

Typically, a job interview involves the employer and the job applicant engaging in a discussion, whether in person or virtually, about the workplace and the applicant’s interest in the position. The primary purpose of an interview is to evaluate the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and fit for the organization.

However, it is important to recognize that the concept of “cultural fit” can sometimes lead to unconscious bias and discrimination. While it is important to assess whether a candidate aligns with the company’s values and work environment, focusing too heavily on cultural fit can result in excluding candidates who are different from the existing team. This can inadvertently perpetuate a lack of diversity and reinforce biases. Employers must ensure that their assessment of cultural fit does not overshadow the candidate’s qualifications and skills.

Bias can manifest in various ways, such as giving undue weight to a candidate’s background, appearance, or personal characteristics that are unrelated to job performance. This can lead to unfair hiring practices and a less diverse workplace. Employers must be vigilant in structuring their interviews to minimize bias and ensure a fair assessment of all candidates.

Job Interview Questions To Ask

Employers should focus on questions that help assess the candidate’s skills, experience, and fit for the role. Here are some examples of appropriate questions to ask during a job interview:

  • Can you describe your previous work experience and how it relates to this position?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Can you provide an example of a challenging situation you faced at work and how you handled it?
  • What are your career goals and how does this position align with them?
  • How do you prioritize your tasks when managing multiple projects?
  • What motivates you to perform well in your job?
  • How do you handle working under pressure?
  • Can you discuss a successful project you worked on and your role in it?

These questions are designed to gauge the candidate’s professional abilities and suitability for the position without touching on any personal or protected characteristics.

Job Interview Questions You Cannot Ask

All job interviews in Ontario and federally regulated working environments fall under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) and the Canadian Human Rights Act (the “CHRA”) respectively. Consequently, employers must avoid asking certain job interview questions related to protected grounds, which include the candidate’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, or disability.

Examples of off-limits questions include:

  • What is your race or ethnicity?
  • What religion do you practice?
  • Are you planning to have children?
  • What is your marital status?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • How old are you?
  • Where were you born?
  • What is your sexual orientation?

Asking these types of job interview questions can jeopardize the hiring process and expose the employer to liability for discriminatory conduct, with potential consequences at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Structuring A Legal And Effective Job Interview

To mitigate the risks associated with asking inappropriate questions and to minimize bias, employers should consider the following best practices:

  • Standardize Interview Questions: Develop a set of standard questions that focus on the candidate’s qualifications, experience, and skills relevant to the job.
  • Avoid Unstructured Questions: Minimize spontaneous or unstructured questions that could inadvertently address protected grounds.
  • Focus on Job Requirements: Ensure all questions are directly related to the job requirements and the candidate’s ability to perform the essential duties of the position.
  • Training for Interviewers: Provide training for all individuals involved in the hiring process to ensure they understand which questions are permissible and which are not, and to recognize and counteract their own potential biases.
  • Use Structured Scoring Systems: Implement a structured scoring system for evaluating candidates’ responses to ensure consistency and fairness.
  • Diverse Interview Panels: Consider having a diverse panel of interviewers to provide multiple perspectives and reduce individual biases.
  • Document the Interview Process: Keep detailed records of the interview process and the questions asked to demonstrate compliance with legal standards and to provide a reference for future hiring decisions.

Consequences Of Asking Inappropriate Job Interview Questions

If an employer appears discriminatory during the hiring process, even unintentionally, they can face substantial monetary damages at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Inappropriate job interview questions can even result in a finding of discrimination, even if the job applicant was not hired due to having fewer skills and experience compared to the successful candidate.

To mitigate these risks, employers should implement a well-structured, organized, and standardized job interview process to ensure that skills and experience assessments align with the nature of the position and do not involve any of the protected grounds under the Code or the CHRA.

Contact Achkar Law

If you believe you have been discriminated against during the hiring process, or if you are an employer seeking to develop compliant hiring practices, Achkar Law is here to help.

At Achkar Law, our experienced employment lawyers understand the complexities of the hiring process and the importance of fairness and compliance with legal standards. We offer comprehensive legal support for both employees and employers:

  • For Employees: If you suspect discrimination during a job interview or hiring process, our legal team can provide you with the guidance and representation you need to protect your rights. We will help you understand your options and pursue appropriate action to address any discriminatory practices you have faced.
  • For Employers: We can assist you in developing structured, organized, and legally compliant hiring practices. Our services include training for interviewers, creating standardized interview questions, implementing effective scoring systems, and ensuring your hiring process adheres to all relevant human rights legislation.

Contact Achkar Law today for a consultation. Let us help you ensure a fair and legally compliant hiring process, or stand up for your rights if you’ve faced discrimination. Your fair and just employment journey begins with us.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

Ensure Your Hiring Practices are Legally Compliant with Achkar Law

Job interviews are crucial in determining the right candidate but must strictly follow legal guidelines to avoid discrimination. If you are an employer looking to optimize your hiring process or a job seeker who has encountered inappropriate interview questions, Achkar Law is ready to assist. Our employment lawyers specialize in ensuring that your interviewing strategies are both effective and compliant with current employment laws, safeguarding your company and individual rights.