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From the start of your journey as a worker in Canada, you have the right to respectful and fair treatment. This includes the job interview

Understanding your rights can help you ensure that you’re treated fairly in the hiring process. Below we address the most important rights you have in the process of interviewing for a new job in Canada. 

What are your rights in a Canadian job interview?

Interviewers cannot ask candidates to provide significant personal information before offering a job. For example, they cannot ask a candidate to give a date of birth, family or medical history, or a residential address during the interview. Certain questions may be necessary during an interview, because the job requires it, but these questions must be specific and directly related to the duties of the job (for example, “can you lift a 50kg box and carry it 20 metres?”). 

Basically, interviewers cannot ask questions that might encourage them to discriminate against a candidate. For example, questions about origin, family, and language cannot be used to discriminate against newcomers to Canada. Questions about age cannot be used to discriminate against older candidates. Questions about family life and planning cannot be used to discriminate against women. 

Significantly for newcomers, employers cannot state that Canadian work experience is preferred over work experience obtained abroad. However, it should be noted that employers are legally entitled to confirm that workers have the legal right to work in Canada, so an employer may ask if you have the immigration status that affords you the right to work.

There are some exceptions made for special service organizations that serve specific groups, but if an organization hires a candidate based on their age, race, or other factors, the organization still has to justify that that factor is required for the job. For example, an organization that provides youth services in a First Nations community may be justified in selecting a 25 year old of First Nations descent instead of a 50 year old white person, in order to best serve the organization’s mandate.

It is important to know what to expect, so you can answer confidently and professionally if you find yourself in a situation where an employer has asked a question you feel uncomfortable answering.

Interviews are a good chance to show your employer your personality, and for two (or more) potential colleagues to get to know each other. Realistically, some “illegal” questions may come up as part of a natural flow of conversation. 

For example, if you are outlining your work experience and background, and mention that you have recently arrived in Canada, it may be natural for the employer to ask, “where have you arrived from?” In the context, it may feel comfortable to answer that question, but you do not have to and it would still be considered illegal, despite the tone of the conversation.

If an interviewer asks a personal question and you do not want to answer it, you can say “I prefer not to answer that.” However, most employers are aware of the rules and wish to avoid any perception that their hiring practice is discriminatory, and it is likely you will not encounter such questions.

It is worth bearing in mind that if an employer is asking invasive and potentially illegal questions (or reacts badly when you evade a question), this may be an indication of the workplace environment. It is important during an interview to think of how you will feel working there and how you get along with management, rather than just focusing on getting the job.

The interview is also the appropriate time to ask about and negotiate salary and benefits in a position. Make sure you leave the interview knowing what to expect, as it can be harder to negotiate these aspects after you have accepted a job. Here are the key details you’ll want to know before you leave the interview: 

  • Wage or salary: the hourly or annual rate you will be paid. Be clear about your salary expectations. In many situations, it is appropriate to negotiate your salary if you feel your skills and background warrant it: be prepared to justify why you think you should be paid more.
  • Schedule: when and for how long you will be expected to work, and how flexible this may be. Does the position have regular hours? Or will your schedule change from week to week?
  • Raises and bonuses: how often might you expect a raise? Is there a schedule or is it based on the boss’s discretion? Are bonuses issued, for example, at Christmas?
  • Benefits: does the position include health and dental insurance? What is the vacation time allowance? What are the provisions for sick leave? 

Once you accept a job offer, you will probably be required to provide further information to your employer that was not required in the job interview. For example, your employer will likely require your home address and Social Insurance Number, in order to enter you for payroll and tax documents.

Getting a job interview in Canada is an exciting first step in your Canadian career journey. Make sure you don’t get too swept up in the excitement, and remain focused on your goals: finding a good position that fits your skill set, offers the potential for career growth, and is in a safe and welcoming workplace. 

Learn more about job interviews in Canada.

Citation "The Canadian job interview: your rights." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation