7 Illegal Interview Questions and How to Avoid Them

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Hiring your first employee is a terrific milestone, and interview questions can help you hone in on the best employee for your needs. On the flip side, however, there are key interview questions you should not ask. Here are seven of the most common Illegal interview questions and some useful alternatives to help you avoid asking these questions.

1. Are You a Citizen?

You cannot legally ask whether a job applicant is a citizen or about the applicant’s race or ethnicity. However, you may ask if the applicant is legally allowed to work in Canada. If English language skills are necessary for the job, you may also ask about proficiency levels. You shouldn’t ask about the applicant’s native tongue or how the applicant learned English. The same rules apply if you are trying to hire a French speaker.

2. How Old Are You?

Asking about age is considered discriminatory. You should also avoid questions related to age, such as when an applicant graduated from high school. However, once you hire an applicant, you can ask if the employee is between the ages of 18 and 64 years; only workers in this age range have to make Canada Pension Plan contributions.

3. Do You Have a Family?

Questions such as “Are you married?” or “Do you have kids?” are also out of bounds. You cannot legally ask an applicant about personal relationships in a job interview. If you want to know how much time the applicant has to commit to the job, ask about that directly. For example, “What days and times are you available?” or “Can you work overtime?” are safe questions to ask.

4. What Organizations Are You Affiliated With?

Humans rights advocates believe that questions about social or religious affiliations can lead employers to discriminate against certain applicants, and employment laws in Canada reflect that sentiment. However, you may ask about membership in groups or organizations related to the job.

5. How Much Do You Weigh?

Like age, weight is also an illegal issue to bring up in an interview. In rare cases where height or weight are bona fide occupational requirements – for example, if the applicant needs to run machinery that can only accommodate operators under a certain weight – you can ask if the applicant meets the requirements.

6. Are You Disabled?

Asking about disability, health, pregnancy and related matters are all classified as illegal interview questions. While you cannot legally ask these questions, you can ask pointed questions about the applicant’s ability to perform the job. For example, “Can you lift x amount of weight?” or “Can you handle x hours on your feet?” are suitable interview questions.

7. Are You a Felon?

Finally, you should be cautious when asking applicants about their criminal past. Vague questions such as “Are you a felon?” or “Have you been arrested?” are not allowed. However, you may ask about convictions related to the post. Employers are not legally allowed to screen out applicants based on their criminal records, unless the criminal record represents a specific danger to the business or the public in general.

References & Resources

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