You know the drill: you apply for the job and send your CV and cover letter. You are then selected for the interview (and jump for joy!). You get up early, put on your 36 and cheer yourself up in front of the mirror. Then, you go to meet your potential future employer to shake his or her hand and respond to each question in the interview. What if some of those questions seemed a little… inappropriate? Some experts say there are certain questions you shouldn’t answer. Some may even be outright illegal and infringe on your fundamental rights.
What you need to watch out for
Mark Franklin, Practice Leader at CareerCycles in Toronto and co-founder of One Life Tools, notes that candidates should be aware that there are several categories of illegal questions that may arise during the hiring process. “Questions about your background, religion, affiliations, citizenship, disabilities,” he says.
“Many people are not Canadian citizens, they were born elsewhere, so the question “Are you legally entitled to work in Canada? is perfectly legal,” adds Mark Franklin. But “What nationality are you?” or “Where are you from?” are not appropriate. »
Questions about your marital status, height or weight are also inappropriate. So, in other words, the “out of bounds” questions look like these:
- What nationality are you/where are you from?
- Are you a Canadian citizen?
- What are your religious affiliations?
- Do you have any disabilities/health problems?
- Are you married/do you have children?
- How much do you weigh?
- How old are you?
However, sometimes things are not so clear-cut. Stephen Wolpert, an associate lawyer with the Toronto labour law firm Whitten & Lublin, says most employers are wise enough to rephrase questions such as “How old are you? ».
“The most insidious questions are those that are subtle forms of intimidation,” he says. It could be an employer asking a 60-year-old man if he is “ready for the challenges” of a certain job. “The problem is that if that question is only asked of that 60-year-old man, it could be age discrimination,” Wolpert says.
How to avoid answering
If you are faced with an inappropriate or uncomfortable question in an interview, it can be stressful, but Mark Franklin and Stephen Wolpert have some suggestions for tactfully avoiding this kind of embarrassing scenario.
Stephen Wolpert suggests answering by deflecting the misplaced question. For example, if an employer asks you if you have resources available to babysit your children, that is inappropriate. But what they may really want to know is whether you are willing to work overtime. Stephen Wolpert suggests starting with “I think you want to know if…”, before letting them know that you are interested in working overtime, if necessary. “Try to rephrase the question for them so that you don’t have to provide personal information that doesn’t concern them,” he says.
It is also useful to keep in mind that interviewers can sometimes be clumsy and make unintentional mistakes without realizing that they have just asked for something inappropriate.
You can return the question and ask “How would this help you choose the right candidate? “Sometimes they may realize that this was not a good question and move on to the next one.
Simply “refusing” to answer a question may seem abrupt, but it may be necessary if something seems to infringe on your rights, and you have the right to refuse. Remember that the hiring process is a two-way street: you must also decide if the company is right for you. If a question makes you uncomfortable, it’s a red flag,” says Franklin. Do you really want to work with this employer? »