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How to Handle Illegal Interview Questions

by Surranna Sandy, CEIP, CPRW, President of


Canadian employment law restrict some of the questions that a potential employer can ask you during an interview. As a Certified Employment Interview Coach, I make it my business to alert my clients that during an interview, they may be asked questions that are considered illegal. And as such they need to be prepared with how far they are willing to go to get that job.

An interviewer can ask as many questions they want to help them determine if you are the right candidate for their vacancy. However, it is illegal for an interviewer to ask you questions related to sex, age, race, religion, national origin or marital status, or to delve into your personal life for information that is not job related.

What can you do if you are asked an illegal question? Remember the point of the interview is to get the job, so is it worth answering these types of questions to get the job of your dream job? Take a moment to evaluate the situation.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel at all comfortable with the question?
  • How much personal information do you want to give up?
  • Does the interviewer seem oblivious to the illegality of the question?
  • Will this interviewer be your direct manager?

You should then respond to the interview in a manner that is most comfortable to you.  Keep in mind that if you do decide to answer the question you should be clear, concise and succinct with the aim to get the conversation back to questions related to your core capabilities and experiences.   For example, if asked about your religions beliefs, you might reply, "I am confident that my religious beliefs will in no way prevent me from being a valuable asset to your company."

There may be times when you are unsure if you should answer the question. In those instances, it is best to ask for further clarification on how the particular questions relates to your qualification for the job.  At the end of the day, the decision to answer these illegal questions is based on if you feel that there is a correlation between the question, your qualifications and the job requirement.

Surranna Sandy is the President of Ms Sandy is an expert in resume writing, interview preparation, career coaching, employment trends, hiring practices and workplace issues. Ms. Sandy partners with both Fortune 100 companies and individuals to deliver targeted programs focusing on resume writing, job search strategies, networking, interviewing, and salary negotiation skills. Contact Ms. Sandy via email at or by phone at (416) 361-1290/1-866-361-1290.

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