What An Employer Can – And Can’t – Ask In An Interview, If you’re on the job hunt, you might want to familiarize yourself with these topics that are out of bounds for employers., Job hunting? What you can and can’t be asked in an interview, You don’t need Miss Manners to tell you it’s rude to ask someone his or her age. “How old are you?” is also the kind of question that has no place in a job interview.
It’s one of several queries that are strictly off-limits when it comes to employers screening potential candidates.
“Anything that is listed as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Human Rights Code would be unacceptable,” says Alka Kundi, a labour and employment lawyer with Borden Ladner Gervais in Vancouver.
Every province has its own human rights legislation, but in B.C., those prohibited grounds include:
Most employers are well-versed in what’s appropriate to ask and what isn’t, but there are still grey areas.
“Some of the more subtle ones are child care and family responsibilities; that’s an emerging area of human rights that is getting protection,” Kundi says. “Asking about child-care arrangements or obligations can be problematic if they’re not directly tied to employment-related requirements.”
The reason that employers can’t ask certain questions, of course, is that the answers could lead to bias in hiring. And asking inappropriate questions leaves an employer open to complaints of discrimination or potential legal action from unsuccessful candidates who believe they weren’t hired because of their disability, race, sex, or other ground protected under the code, even if the decision not to hire was legitimate.
“Our human rights laws prevent employers from refusing to employ someone for a reason related to prohibited grounds of discrimination,” explains lawyer Kelly Slade-Kerr, with Vancouver employment-law firm Hamilton Howell Bain & Gould. “Our laws say you can’t discriminate against somebody for reasons related to those factors. Employers making a decision on who to hire can’t consider any of those factors because it’s a violation of our human rights laws.”
Job seekers may want to consider familiarizing themselves with what’s fair game. Instead of asking if you have Canadian citizenship, for example, an employer should ask whether you’re legally entitled to work in Canada, Kundi explains.
Questions related to family life aren’t permissible, except as they relate to job performance, says Sheryl Boswell, marketing director at career site Monster.ca. “While you cannot ask a candidate if he or she has children or has adequate child care, you can ask about ability to perform the job,” Boswell says.