What to Do if a Job Application Has Illegal Questions


Job applications ask about your skills, education and work history to help determine candidacy for employment. Job applications should not contain questions that have been deemed inappropriate for applicants to have to answer, such as those pertaining to personal life or physical characteristics. If these questions come up on an application, you can choose whether or not to answer them or pursue the matter legally.


According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the only questions federally banned from any application are those that inquire about disability. Beyond disability, the agency reports that questions inquiring about race, religion, gender, arrest record, sexual orientation, marital status and credit rating are deemed irrelevant for most jobs and, as such, should not be asked or answered on applications. Example questions may be “Have you ever been arrested?” or “Do you attend religious services and if so, where?” or “What is your race?”

Do Not Answer

You do not have to answer any questions on an application that you do not feel comfortable answering, whether or not they are deemed illegal or inappropriate. Leave the question blank, and when handing in the application, ask to speak to the person in charge of hiring. If you do not want to confront the hiring person about the question, simply write "will discuss at interview" in the space provided for the answer.

Use Your Judgment

While the questions may be illegal to ask on the application, it does not mean you are banned from answering them, but do so at your discretion. It can be beneficial to answer some of these questions at a job that, for instance, works with a specific minority group. While you should not be asked about race or religion on the application, you may find that answering the question helps your application stand out. You may also choose to answer the question if you feel your answer will have no negative impact. For example, if asked if you have ever been arrested and you have not, answering no will have no impact. Again, you are not obligated to answer any of these questions and you should only do so after you have weighed the options.

File a Report

If you find any of the illegal questions out of line or racist, sexist or homophobic or and you do not feel comfortable confronting the person in charge of hiring, you can choose to report the company to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This government agency handles cases of employment discrimination including application questions that are illegal or irrelevant to securing employment. The agency's phone number as of 2011 is 1-800-669-4000, or you can go to the EEOC website. Have your information and the information about the company ready, as well as a copy of the application if possible.

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