Interview best practices

Two co-op students looking at each other, in an interview at the university of Waterloo smiling.

Congratulations on making it to the next step of the hiring process! It's time to bring those carefully selected candidates in for an interview. Your main goal is to assess potential hires and show them why joining your team is the best decision they'll ever make. Here are some best practices to help you evaluate candidates fairly, and get the most out of your interview time.

Preparing for your interviews

Before you begin interviews it is important to be prepared to discuss the following with your interviewees:

Best practices for conducting your interviews

The University of Waterloo's Work-Learn Institute is dedicated to researching the development of talent through work-integrated learning programs. Through their research, they have developed best practices and strategies to help ensure a positive interview experience for all involved. Here are their top tips:

Assess candidates fairly

Use a system to standardize your interview process. It will save you time as well as keep the process equitable for all candidates. Reduce your bias by asking questions that relate to the essential functions of the job, using a structured interview format and ensuring your organization's cultural fit criteria are measurable.

Allow the candidate to shine

Ask questions that allow candidates to share the knowledge, skills and experience they can bring to the position, rather than their areas for improvement. A candidate may have limited experience to draw from, but this will allow them to showcase the valuable contributions they can make to your organization.

Sell your experience

Part of your role as the interviewer is to promote the advantages and experience they will gain as part of your organization. Candidates use this information to determine if the organization and opportunity are right for them and their career goals. This is especially important if your recruitment operates within a rank-match process.

Save time at the end

There are a few reasons why it’s important to leave time at the end of the interview. To keep the process fair and equitable, make sure you have enough time to get through all your questions and leave time for the interviewee to ask questions. You want to end the interview on a positive note, rather than feeling rushed. 

Human rights guidelines for pre-screening and interviews

When adding pre-screening questions and interviewing candidates, please abide by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act which prohibit discrimination. It is a human rights code violation to ask any questions regarding:

  • Age
  • Ancestry, colour, race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Creed/religion
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status (including single status)
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
  • Record of offences (in employment only)
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Sexual orientation

Except in limited circumstances, you may not ask for information related to the prohibited grounds listed above. Instead, gather information relevant to deciding if an applicant can perform the functions of a position. Whether or not your discriminatory question was intentional, you could be in violation of the Code.

Ensure that your questions are not discriminatory. The following are examples of questions and comments that may seem innocent but could infringe on a prohibited ground of discrimination covered by the Code.

Examples of questions and comments that may be discriminatory or inappropriate

Age: “Do you think you can handle this job?”, “Your generation is too entitled.”

Comments on an applicant’s age, appearance, and/or health are inappropriate and may indicate discrimination. In the context of co-op employment, age discrimination is more likely to be an issue for older/mature job applicants.

Citizenship: “Are you a Canadian citizen or permanent resident (PR) of Canada?”

Questions about citizenship or PR status may be discriminatory and does not have to be disclosed in an interview. However, you can ask if an applicant is legally entitled to work in Canada.

Race, race-related grounds, sex, sexual orientation: “What is your background?”, “Where are you from?”, “How long have you/ your family been in Canada?”, “Did you attend the Pride parade this year?”

Questions about place of origin, ethnic origin, race, sex and sexual orientation may be discriminatory. Applicant do not have to disclose this type of information in an interview.

Creed/religion: “What is your religion?”, “Are you a practicing Christian/Catholic/Muslim, etc.?”

If an applicant talks about accommodation of religious needs in the workplace, then you may enquire into the nature of the accommodation requested. Otherwise, only discuss accommodation of religious needs in the workplace after making an offer of employment. Any other questions about religious beliefs and practices may be discriminatory.

Disability: “How did you become disabled?”, “Is your disability permanent?”

Unless an applicant offers information about their disability during an interview, questions about the disability and its nature and extent are discriminatory. However, if an applicant’s disability becomes an issue during the interview, please inquire about any needs for accommodation (e.g., assistive communications devices). If an applicant discloses information about their disability, then ask about accommodation needs and their ability to perform the essential duties of the job with accommodation.

Family and marital status: “Do you have any children or plan to have children?”, “Are you married/do you plan to get married?”

With limited exceptions, such as jobs with frequent travel, questions about an applicant’s caregiving responsibilities or family planning may be discriminatory. When deciding to offer someone a job, delays to their anticipated start date due to a maternity, parental, or disability leave should not influence your decision. If your company has a clear and consistent anti-nepotism policy, you may grant or withhold employment to a person who is a spouse or close relative of the co-op employer or another employee.

Record of offenses: “Do you have any Criminal Code convictions?”

You are allowed to ask about and consider unpardoned Criminal Code convictions when hiring. However, it may be discriminatory to ask about pardoned convictions.

Handling inappropriate questions

Applicants are not obligated to answer any questions that are clearly inappropriate or make them feel uncomfortable. If they feel that they should not answer the question, they may state, “I do not feel obligated to answer that” or “that question is inappropriate.” This response should signal that your question may be discriminatory. Retract your question and move on to the next one.