Interviewing and Hiring Part 1 – Worst Practices

by Mateusz Kuczera

Published August 14, 2023

As Jenny steps through her office door, she notices that her interview candidate is already sitting across her desk, back straight and hands on his laps. She passes beside him, stops at his right side and says “Hi! Shi—Shi-a-oley? Did I get this right?”

Xiaolei immediately stands up and bows several times while saying with his heavy Asian accent “Yes. Hi. me Xiaolei. Nice meet you.”

“Nice meeting you too,” replies Jenny, stretching out her hand to shake his. Xiaolei grabs Jenny’s hand softly, shakes it gently and quickly lets go, never looking into her eyes. She walks around her desk and sits down, after which Xiaolei imitates her.

“So,” she says. “You’re here for the electrician job?”

“Uhm, ya. Electrician. Me finish school. Now me want work. Me electrical engineer from China but no accept me engineer here.”

“Right,” says Jenny. “You’re a Chinese national?” she prompts after glancing at his resume.

“Ya, me China citizen.”

“You have kids?”

“Ya, I bring wife and children from China.”

Jenny looks down at his CV and says with a sigh “yeah… Look, we have a lot of candidates right now. Your CV is good, but I’ll need to review with my partner. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

As she stands up, Xiaolei rises from his seat in a military manner. She walks towards the door, stops and looks at him. Understanding that Jenny is showing him the way out, he shyly looks down, grabs his belongings and leaves her office. As she closes the door, Jenny thinks “honestly, can’t we get normal people in here?”

A few days later, Jenny’s phone rings from an unknown number. Right after she picks up, a man professionally initiates the conversation by saying “Good day. This is Romeo Stanford, immigration lawyer at Stanford associates. I am calling you on the behalf of Xiaolei Li whom you have interviewed recently. I have been made aware that you may have asked questions related to ethnicity, family and citizenship. Is that accurate?”

Jenny frowns, keeps her silence a second or two, then says “uh, well, I did ask if he was Chinese.” Then releases with a slight chuckle “What, is that illegal or something?”

“Ma’am, as a matter of fact, it is. Thank you for the confirmation. You will be hearing from us shortly. Goodbye.”

By having unacceptable racial biases and being unaware of what cannot be asked in an interview, Jenny set herself up for quite a bit of trouble. While this situation is at the complete end of the spectrum, other interviews worst practices are somewhat harder to identify. Best practices are also unknown and uncommon. This article will focus on how to avoid the worst and make use of the best interview best practices. Worst hiring practices, despite being generally part of common sense, are notoriously widespread in smaller companies. The list below goes from absolute worst to mildest, and suggests ways to avoid them.

Asking Illegal Questions (Obviously…)

In Canada, human rights law prohibits asking several questions during an interview. Unless absolutely necessary for the job, the topics below should be outright avoided when conducting an interview.

  • Country/place of origin and citizenship status
  • Religion, faith or creed
  • Age
  • Gender or sexual orientation
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Family structure, children or marital status
  • Mental or physical health and disability
  • Appearance, height and weight
  • Pardoned offences

As a general rule, questions pertaining to the execution of the work, as well as questions about emotional intelligence and soft skills, should be the main questions asked during an interview. If, however, some of the topics above need to be discussed, please consult with your HR counselor to ensure that you are asking the correctly.

Giving in to Bias

In the context of interviewing, a bias is a consider as an unfair prejudice for or against someone. Although racial, gender and other biases are slowly fading from our society, there are still people who have them. Some are aware, some are not. If an employer is unaware of his own biases, an exercise should be done to identify them. For employers aware of their biases, care should be taken to avoid letting them take control and favoring or disfavoring candidates.

Hiring Too Quickly

When the company is short-staffed or have a pressing need, it can be tempting to rush the hiring process. However, hiring too quickly can lead to poor hiring decisions and can ultimately harm the company in the long run. Time should be taken to correctly evaluate each candidate and select what seems like the best choice for the role.

Not Checking References

Not checking references can lead to hiring someone who is not suitable for the role, a good fit for the company culture, or just simply not a good person. Reference will provide information which the candidate will sometimes fail to provide.

Hiring Based Only on Qualifications

Hiring based solely on qualifications can lead to overlooking candidates who have the right personality and cultural fit for the company. Qualifications are indeed important, but between a candidate with amazing hard skills and terrible soft skills and one with acceptable hard skills and amazing soft skills, it is recommended to choose the latter.

Failing to Establish Clear Expectations

During the interview and shortly after hiring, failing to establish clear expectations from the start can lead to confusion and disappointment for both the employee and the employer. Ensure that expectations are clearly defined from the get-go.

Taking Forever

The right candidate has been interviewed once and fits pretty well in the organization, but there is still uncertainty. It can be tempting to go for a second, third, fourth interview, and so on. While a second interview can sometimes help with some level of doubt, more is generally useless. Unless you want your candidate to develop interview fatigue and have another company hire him, avoid taking too long for hiring.


Worst interviewing and hiring practices can really bring problems. It is important to avoid asking illegal questions, hiring too quickly, not checking references, hiring solely based on qualifications, failing to establish clear expectations, and taking forever. By avoiding these pitfalls and using hiring best practices – the topic of the second part – can a company find and hire the best possible employees.

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