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CaRMS Interview Guidelines

The following information is provided by CaRMS.  Program Directors should check the Interview Guidelines on the CaRMS website to check for any updates.

Guidelines for Conducting Interviews

  • Interviews should be conducted in privacy and without interruption.
  • All interviews, ie individual applicant interviews, should be a minimum 30 minutes duration. This can be in the form of multiple short interviews or one 30 minute encounter. Other recruitment strategies such as tours and meeting with residents will require  additional time.
  • Interviews should be free of intimidation.
  • Interviews cannot include personal questions about family, religion, age or finances.

Interviews cannot include questions, illusions, remarks or coercion about other applications, interviews or ranking.

Guidelines for the conduct of interviews and candidate selection in CaRMS


The following guidelines have been developed by CaRMS and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada Postgraduate Medical Education standing committee. They outline guidelines for conduct based upon the terms of the CaRMS contract, Privacy Policies as outlined in PIPEDA and relevant human rights legislation.

There are a number of issues which are explored in this document. These topics include:

  • Good practices for interviews;
  • Appropriate and inappropriate interview questions;
  • Privacy of student information;
  • Not releasing information found in a letter of reference to a candidate.

The Interview

The following guidelines have been developed by CaRMS and the AFMC PGME and AFMC UGME standing committees. They outline guidelines for conduct based upon the terms of the CaRMS contract and relevant human rights legislation. They are not meant to be completely inclusive and Medical schools may be subject to provincial legislation and local school policies. The text of Canadian Human Rights legislation is taken off the internet.

Schools are encouraged to develop their own guidelines and to undertake faculty education and faculty workshops with interviewers that include these guidelines and others relevant to their own province.

Better education and dissemination of appropriate standards for interviews and general conduct during the CaRMS process will improve the process for both candidates and schools.

General Principles

Institutions and candidates are bound by their contracts with CaRMS which also refers to the Match Violations Policy.

It is expected that Residency Programs will provide all required information and schedule mandatory out-of-town interviews in accordance with the Schedule of Dates established by the AFMC Standing Committees of PGME and UGME at their annual conjoint meeting at AFMC in the Spring. These dates are to be disseminated by UGME and PGME to all programs and are to be widely displayed on the CaRMS website.

It is a general principle that Participating Residency Programs through Program Directors or agents of the program (other faculty; interviewing teams including Residents) will not exert undue or unwarranted pressure on the selection decisions of Applicants. Both Applicants and Participating Residency Programs may express a high degree of interest in each other but may not make statements implying a commitment.

Programs cannot ask applicants how they intend to rank programs or request any information on other programs the applicant may have applied to. Another principle is that Reference Letters that are written in confidence should not be shown to the applicant nor their contents revealed to the applicant.

The Medical School and Program has the right to:

  • Define specific eligibility criteria for their residency program that meet future employment needs
  • Require position-related qualifications and experience
  • Recruit the most suitable persons based on their criteria
  • Establish measurable standards of performance
  • Set employment terms and conditions
  • Require Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status

Discrimination in employment is prohibited on the grounds of:

  • Race
  • Place of Origin
  • Ancestry
  • Ethnic Origin
  • Colour
  • Creed
  • Citizenship
  • Handicap
  • Sex
  • Marital Status
  • Age (18 to 65)
  • Family Status

The Canadian Human Rights Act

The Canadian Human Rights Act entitles all individuals to equal employment opportunities without regard to: race or color, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, family or marital status, sex (including pregnancy or childbirth), pardoned conviction, disability (either physical or mental or as the result of dependence on alcohol or drugs), or sexual orientation.   Section 8 of the Act states that:

It is a discriminatory practice,

  • (a) to use or circulate any form of application for employment, or
  • (b) in connection with employment or prospective employment, to publish any advertisement, or make any written or oral inquiry that expresses or implies any limitation, specification or preference based on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

The Act covers employment under federal jurisdiction. Included are federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, airlines, banks, railways, inter-provincial pipelines, radio, television and telephone companies, and transport companies that do business in more than one province.

Bona Fide Occupational Requirements

An exception to the Act is allowed when the abilities necessary to carry out the core functions of the job are related to a prohibited ground. A particular skill or qualification can be specified if the preference is based on a bona fide occupational requirement.

For example, a job may require a certain level of color vision in order to be performed safely and efficiently, thereby precluding from consideration a person who does not meet this level. However, employers should try to find alternative approaches to the job so that such restrictive requirements can be eliminated.

Occupational requirements should focus on a person's actual ability — not assumptions based on a group characteristic. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has detailed materials available to explain the application of bona fide occupational requirements if you think that jobs in your organization are affected.

Special Programs and Employment Equity

The Canadian Human Rights Act allows for special programs designed to improve opportunities for groups that have been traditionally disadvantaged because of race, ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, marital and family status, disability or any other prohibited ground of discrimination. As well, the Canadian Human Rights Commission audits employers and takes necessary action to ensure they comply with the Employment Equity Act, which is designed to improve job opportunities for four specific groups — women, Aboriginal people, members of visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. Many employers have found special programs helpful in achieving equality in the workplace. (special programs for International Medical Graduates would fall under this)

Good Practice : Programs should Inform Applicants About Progress and status.

  • Unsuccessful applicants are sent a letter thanking them for their interest and informing them that they will not be invited to an interview.
  • Invite shortlisted applicants for an interview.

Set Up Interviews with AFMC PGME/UGME and CaRMS Timetable guidelines:

Good practice suggests that successful programs contact shortlisted candidates to arrange a time for an interview, (in keeping with the CaRMS timetable, no less than 1 week before the interview) and coordinate their interview itineraries for out-of-town interviewees within the national interview period. Programs must make every effort to co-ordinate their interviews with programs in other medical schools to ensure applicants do not have to go back and forth across the country.

Prior to the interview, develop a set of questions and ask all candidates, including internal ones, the same questions. For example, if the program requires the applicant to travel to another training site, do not ask female candidates to describe their family responsibilities. Ask all candidates - men and women alike - if they are available to travel. In this way you can make valid comparative judgments.

  1. Ask questions that relate directly to the position and avoid questions relating to protected human rights grounds, such as sex, ancestry, disability, or sexual orientation.
  2. Ensure that questions assess criteria that can be evaluated objectively.
  3. Be aware that HRDC allows selection committees to consider "fit" when evaluating applicants. "Fit" refers to a candidate's ability to make a positive contribution to the departmental environment. Committees must ensure that "fit" is not used inappropriately to indulge personal biases or to discriminate against candidates from groups protected by human rights legislation.
  4. Remember that candidates are also making decisions about your university. Be prepared to arrange meetings between candidates and residents.
  5. Ensure conversations and written communications with applicants do not depart from university's policies and collective agreements.
  6. Human rights legislation prohibits both intentional and unintentional discrimination. Keep in mind that the legality of the selection process does not rest upon your intentions, but rather upon the consistency with which you treat the candidates and the types of questions you ask them.

Appropriate Questions

  • What are you looking for in terms of learning opportunities?
  • How do you deal with problems when they arise?
  • What have you found to be your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What has your experience been in working with people in authority?
  • Do you have any ideas about how you learn best?

Inappropriate Questions

Personal Data

  • Where were you born?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your ethnic background?
  • Are you married/planning marriage?
  • Do you have children?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • Religion

Inappropriate CaRMS Ranking Questions

  • What other programs did you apply to?
  • Do you plan to rank our program?
  • Where on your list will you rank our program?

Subject: Name

Avoid asking:

  • about name change: whether it was changed by court order, marriage, or other reason
  • maiden name


  • ask place and duration of current or recent address

Subject: Age

Avoid asking:

  • for birth certificates, baptismal records, or about age in general

Subject: Sex

Avoid asking:

  • males or females to fill in different applications
  • about pregnancy, child bearing plans, or child care arrangements


  • ask applicant if the attendance requirements can be met

Subject: Marital status

Avoid asking:

  • whether applicant is single, married, divorced, engaged, separated, widowed, or living common-law
  • whether an applicant's spouse may be transferred
  • about the spouse's employment


  • the applicant can be asked whether he or she can meet these requirements
  • ask whether there are any circumstances that might prevent completion of a minimum service commitment

Subject: Family status
Avoid asking:

  • number of children or dependentsabout child care arrangements


  • ask if the applicant would be able to work the required hours Comment:
  • contacts for emergencies and/or details on dependents can be determined after selection

Subject: National or ethnic origin

Avoid asking:

  • about birthplace, nationality of ancestors, spouse, or other relatives
  • whether born in Canada
  • for proof of citizenship


  • since those who are entitled to work in Canada must be citizens, permanent residents, applicants can be asked whether they are legally entitled to work in Canada


  • documentation of eligibility to work can be requested after selection

Subject: Language

Avoid asking:

  • mother tongue
  • where language skills obtained


  • ask if applicant understands, reads, writes, or speaks languages required for the job


  • testing or scoring applicants for language proficiency is not permitted unless job-related

Subject: Race or Colour
Avoid asking:

  • any inquiry into race or colour, including colour of eyes, skin or hair

Subject: Photographs
Avoid asking:

  • for photo to be attached to applications or sent to interviewer before interview, CaRMS will unmask the photograph in the electronic applicant file after the interviews begin.

Subject: Religion

Avoid asking:

  • whether applicant will work a specific religious holiday
  • about religious affiliation, church membership, frequency of church attendance
  • for references from clergy or religious leader


  • explain the required work shift, asking whether such a schedule poses problems for the applicant


  • reasonable accommodation of an employee's religious beliefs is the employer's duty

  Subject: Disability

Avoid asking:

  • for a list of all disabilities, limitations or health problems
  • whether applicant drinks or uses drugs
  • whether applicant has ever received psychiatric care or been hospitalized for emotional problems
  • whether applicant has received worker's compensation


The Employer should:

  • disclose any information on medically-related requirements or standards early in the application process.
  • then ask whether the applicant has any condition that could affect his or her ability to do the job.

A disability is only relevant to job ability if it:

  • threatens the safety or property of others
  • prevents the applicant from safe and adequate job performance even when reasonable efforts are made to accommodate the disability

Subject: Medical Information
Avoid asking:

  • whether the applicant is currently under a physician's care
  • name of family doctor
  • whether receiving counselling or therapy

Subject: Pardoned Conviction
Avoid asking:

  • whether an applicant has ever been convicted
  • whether the applicant has ever been arrested
  • whether the applicant has a criminal record

Subject: Sexual Orientation
Avoid asking:

  • about the applicant's sexual orientation

Subject: References

  • the same restrictions that apply to questions asked of applicants apply when asking for references.

Privacy Policies

What is Personal Information?
We consider "Personal Information" to mean any information, recorded in any form, about an identified individual or an individual whose identity may be inferred or determined from such information, other than "business contact information" (e.g. name, title, business address).

Use of Personal Information
The Institution shall only use personal information of Applicants disclosed to it by CaRMS for the purpose of selecting candidates for the Institution's  postgraduate residency training programs.

Retention and Security of Information
The Institution shall keep information provided to it by CaRMS only as long as it is required for the reasons it was collected. The Institutions shall have in place procedures to destroy, delete, erase or convert personal information into an anonymous form when it is no longer required for the Institution's purposes. The Institution shall have appropriate security measures to protect any information provided to it by CaRMS. "Appropriate security measures" means technical, physical and procedural controls to protect information against destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure to third parties or unauthorized access by employees or contractors employed by the Institution, whether by accident or otherwise.

Disclosure of Information in Letters of Reference
All information in a letter of reference is considered confidential (unless stated otherwise) and may not be shared with a candidate without explicit permission from the referee.