How to add pre-screening questions to job postings

New feature in WaterlooWorks allows employers to ask pre-screening questions

In an effort to simplify the hiring process, employers can now add up to five pre-screening questions to job postings in WaterlooWorks.

Some jobs have very specific requirements, like a valid G driver's licence or experience with JavaScript. If you can't find the applicants who meet these requirements before selecting them for an interview, it can end up wasting a lot of your (and their) time. In an effort to make the hiring process easier for employers and students, WaterlooWorks now supports up to five pre-screening questions for each job posting. 

What this means for employers

  • It's easier for you to post jobs that the right candidates will apply to.
  • Filter through résumés faster by quickly seeing which candidates have the knowledge and skills required for your job.
  • Don't waste time interviewing applicants who don't meet the basic job requirements.

How do pre-screening questions work?

Appropriate and Inappropriate Questions

There are clear human rights guidelines for employment interview questions. The Ontario Human Rights Code (“Code”) protects interviewees against interview questions that are discriminatory. The Code prohibits discrimination on the grounds of:

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

Except in limited circumstances that are not typically applicable to a co-op position interview, you may not ask for information related to the prohibited grounds listed above. You must focus on gathering information relevant to deciding if an applicant can perform the functions of a position. You can violate the Code regardless of whether your discriminatory questioning was intentional or not.

You may not always be aware that your questions are discriminatory. The following are examples of questions and comments that seem innocent, but may infringe on a prohibited ground of discrimination covered by the Code:

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

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

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

Questions about citizenship or PR status may be discriminatory, and this information 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/has 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, and this information does not have to be disclosed by an applicant in an interview.

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

If an applicant chooses to talk about accommodation of religious needs in the workplace during or prior to the interview, then you may enquire further into the nature of the accommodation requested. Otherwise, you should only discuss accommodation of religious needs in the workplace after making a conditional 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 chooses to talk about their disability during an interview, questions about the disability and its nature and extent may be discriminatory. However, if an applicant’s disability becomes an issue during the interview, then you are expected to enquire about any needs for accommodation. In addition, if an applicant chooses to disclose information about their disability, then you may also ask about accommodation needs and the applicant’s 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 involving jobs where frequent travel is a necessity, questions about an applicant’s caregiving responsibilities or plans to start a family may be discriminatory. Further, when deciding whether to offer someone a job, you should not let the fact that an applicant will not be able to start work on an anticipated start date due to a maternity, parental, or disability leave play a role in your decision. However, if your company has a clear and consistent anti-nepotism policy may grant or withhold employment to a person who is a spouse or close relative of the co-op employer or employee.

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

You are allowed to ask about and consider unpardoned Criminal Code convictions when hiring, but 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 will ideally signal to you that your question may be discriminatory, and then you may retract it and move on to the next question.