Personal Questions Being Asked on Job Applications.

Updated on June 20, 2010
S.J. asks from Louviers, CO
23 answers

How common is it these days for employment applications to ask any of the following questions:
Are you affiliated with a church? Are you active on any social networking sites, and if asked, would you be willing to provide them access?? Do you drink? Do you smoke? I have been out of the workforce for sometime so when a friend of mine who just started job hunting after taking some years off to raise the kiddos ran across some of these questions on job apps I was a little shocked, as was she. I know it is common to ask if you would submit to a background check and credit check but these other questions? I thought asking anything related to religion would be discrimination but have I just been gone to long to realize that this is the 'new norm' these days?

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answers from Phoenix on

My son filled out an application to Target and they asked about 20 questions about what his opinion was about politics etc. My mom filled out an application for a grocery store where they asked similiar questions. I think it's weird but I'm wondering if they get a feel of what kind of person you are by how you answer the questions.

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answers from Denver on

While it is not illegal to ask such questions, it is illegal to use them as a basis for employment. Seperating the asking from the using of the answer is virtually impossible, so people say these are illegal questions. I would steer clear of such an organization.

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answers from Portland on

Hi Stacey,

When I was a Nanny/ worked in child care, I can see answering these type of questions, but if I was applying to an office job, I would not.

They seem over the top to me for most office positions.

R. Magby

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answers from Rochester on

I haven't been asked all of those, but some applications asked things about how I felt about different behaviors, such as:

"Do you think it is as bad to have a drink as it is to smoke marjiuana?"

I think some have asked about how you feel about theft, suggesting a difference between a manager stealing and a "regular" person; questions in general about lifestyle choices that, to me, have nothing to do with work as long as you do not do them at work and are not under the influence of anything at work. Drug screening makes sense, "personality" tests make a small amount of sense, but some of the questions are nuts. I'm sure that's why I missed out on a lot of interviews. :)

I don't know about employment laws in every state. Could be they are trying hard to be non-biased so they can go out of their way to hire in different areas, or maybe the agency/company has a religious affiliation. I worked in a church-based daycare center and had to identify my home church and a few other areas that had to do with Christian instruction for very young children, in addition to my qualifications to provide care.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that you look up the laws on hiring on the Internet. As others have suggested some personal questions are OK when they apply to one's ability to perform the job. For instance, if you're applying for a job in a non-smoking environment that may be a legitimate question. I don't know. I do know that if you're filling out a request for health information they can ask that question.

Here is the first site that I found by googling hiring application law. The site is that of an employment attorney. Turns out questions about smoking and drinking are OK but not because of my reason. lol

Here is a summary of the law regarding discrimination and hiring. The only question that you questioned that would seem to illegal is the one on religion.

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answers from Denver on

I think it depends on the type of place you are applying it a church? Private employee, taking care of children?

In general, they are not appropriate questions for a public employer, but context definitely matters here...

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answers from Denver on

I have over 15 years experience in HR. The questions asked should not be on a job application unless they are directly related to the job. Is the job with an internet company, then the social networking site question is valid. Is the job with a church or a company affiliated with a church, then the church question is valid. etc....

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answers from Seattle on

I think I have heard an NPR report on the religious thing a while ago and I believe that if you are applying for a position with a church, or an institution that is affiliated with a church or religious organization (like a daycare, private school, etc) they may actually ask about you religion and it can be part of the criteria on whether or not to hire someone.
It has also become very common to ask for social networking sites. Personally I like having a professional profile that is separate from my private profile. Other people I know just have one profile and use their privacy controls to restrict access (and common sense in what they post).
Good luck to your friend!

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answers from New York on

Most of these questions are not appropriate and should not be asked, unless they are directly related to the job. Church, smoking, and drinking are all discriminary questions. I'm not sure about the social networking question. I think it to would be considered discriminary.



answers from Minneapolis on

I think most of those questions are illegal in MN, but it may be state law that controls that, not federal. I would actually call the Better Business Bureau and report them. They can at least let you know what the laws are in CO. Ick. I would absolutely refuse to answer any of them. I would also refuse to work in an environment that asked those questions. If they're willing to do this on an application, what will they do when you actually work for them? No way - your personal life is none of their business!



answers from Savannah on

I can kinda understand the drinking and smoking questions but what I do with a church and on FB is no ones business buy my own IMO! lol I'd check your state laws on this for proper info. You could probably find out on your states employment website.

Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Hi Stacey - I agree it would depend on the type of job you are applying for. If it is with a church or religious organization, they would definitely be interested in this. As far as social networking sites go, that is becoming more and more common - If you are applying for a mom and pop place, they may just be trying to assess your character but the questions can be illegal.



answers from New York on

no that is not the norm unless you're going through security clearance process then you have to dish out everything.
the personal questions that you find on the forms you're talking about just put a dash as an answer
or write N/A (not applicable)



answers from Los Angeles on

The religion question is definitely illegal and should not be answered if it's on an application. As for the others, they are not illegal (at least not in CA), though they are kind of strange to appear on an application.

Most employers do try to find applicants on social networking sites these days, especially Facebook. So it's really important not to have pictures or posts on those sites that a workplace might in any way deem inappropriate. Of course, it also allows them to find out about your family life, though technically using that against you would be discrimination.

Asking to take a drug test is also pretty standard, but asking about drinking and smoking on the app is kind of weird.


answers from Dallas on

I've never had to answer such questions (nor been asked) for any kind of employment. By law, they're not even supposed to. I'd leave them blank. (I do know that many employers will try to search you on sites like myspace or facebook, so if you do have them make sure that they are blocked from random people looking at it (so they can't see anything unless you are friends) or no incriminating things on there.



answers from San Francisco on

They might just ask on the off chance that some people WILL answer. You may not be legally required to answer. I think I'd ask why they wanted personal information, especially if it isn't relevant to your qualifications for the position. I haven't filled out an employment application in years so I don't have first hand information.



answers from Redding on

Employers these days, in my opinion, think they can get away with anything because of the economy. Not ALL employers ask inappropriate or illegal questions, but many do.
I had an interview last week and the first thing the guy asked me was, "Are you married or single and do you have children?"
I said, "I don't believe you're allowed to ask me that" and he said, I'm not joking....
"I can and WILL ask you anything I want."

Yes I'm single and I do have children. One of them is 24 years old and long on her own. What has that got to do with the job description? Nothing.
The religion question....I guess if you were applying for a position as the deacon of a church or something, that would be relevant.
Many employers won't even get back to you or acknowledge your resume or application. I know that part of it is due to how many people apply for one position and it can be overwhelming, but I've managed offices and interviewed and hired people and I always sent a thank you to every single person who applied. Employers don't do that anymore.
Many even say on their ads that you can apply online only and any "unsolicited" communication will not be considered. That's even businesses 15 minutes away. They don't want to deal with people and if you've had a break in your employment history, many won't even consider you. It doesn't matter what your reasons are because they either don't contact you or they ask inappropriate questions.
I worked for two employers who said, even though they kept it on the downlow, that they would not hire single females because of the chance they might get married and not work there anymore. Even young married women with no kids....they might have a kid and not come back to work.
I don't mean to rant, but I think women get the short end of the stick when it comes to being considered "employable".
I wish I could quote the source, but I saw a thing that said it's women who are the ones remaining in the workforce and in fact trying to support their families on one income after their husbands get laid off or lose their jobs.
Many employers see themselves as being in a position to ask anything and if you answer incorrectly or not at all, they just pitch your paperwork into the trash and go on to the next person.
I have nothing to hide. I would never conceal information, but I think that certain things, unless they pertain to your ability to function and perform your job duties as outlined, are way off base. And, it's almost impossible, in my opinion, to prove any discrimination unless you have it in writing that you were turned down for a position due to religious or marital status, etc.
There are too many people desperate for work right now to ever prove you were discriminated against any more than the next person if they ask the same questions of every applicant.
You can always contact your local labor board and report an employer. Nothing wrong with that. But, you won't get a job out of it. And I personally wouldn't want to work for some people who, economy or not, have lost all professionalism and etiquette.

Sorry for the rant and that's just my personal opinion.
I mean no offense to anyone.



answers from Indianapolis on

My first job out of college was as a recruiter in the IT industry. We couldn't even ask people if they had a green card or were citizens. The extent of which we could legally ask about someone's immigration status was "Do you require sponsorship to work in the US?"

I'd check with your state's Attorney General's office to see if these are legal questions. My instinct is that they are not.

I work a a Social Media Specialist. My job is literally to do my company's communications via various Social Media sites. Every day I read articles on people being fired for comments they make on Facebook.

So, in regard to that question, I think there is legitimacy. But only as far as it pertains to business. If you use Facebook personally, it begins to get into 1st Amendment issues of free speech vs. liable/slander if you talk about coworkers, customers, etc. But, they can't control what you do on your personal time.

Some companies are pushing the boundaries these days because they think they can with 9.9% unemployment and 16% underemployment.

There was an article in CNNMoney earlier this week about how companies can legally choose not to hire you because you're unemployed preferring the "best" candidates as those who are currently employed.



answers from Washington DC on

Personally, I wouldn't answer the uber personal questions. If they didn't hire me because of that, then I didn't want to work for them anyways. What I do with my life during my own time is MY business. For me a job is a means to an end, it is not the end in and of itself. It's 8 hours out of 24 each day. It's only 1/3 of my day. The rest is mine to do with as I please. To me, they only have a right to ask questions about issues that may affect my ability to work, like disabilities, drug use, criminal history etc... The rest is invasive and non-relevant. If she doesn't get hired because of not answering those questions, she may have a valid employment discrimination complaint.



answers from New York on

I agree, these questions all sound too personal. I would pass on a company like this.


answers from Detroit on

i know it's illegal to ask the chruch question because they could use that as discrimination. i'm not sure about the drinking and smoking question. now the social networking question is think is a recent thing since sooo many people have them now. and some dummies go on there and say things like I'm at the beach having a great time but they called off and said they were sick or something was wrong with their kids.( somethings things are just better left unsaid) but i know that if this job is a equal oppurtunity employer they can not hire you or NOT hire you based on religion. good luck



answers from Denver on

They can ask but you do not have to answer some of those questions. You can even check with the labor board to find out your rights to be sure. The only way religion comes into play is if you are applying for a religious job or a job that has an affiliation with a particular religion. You also don't have to answer other questions like whether you drink or smoke, how old you are, etc.

Good luck to your friend.



answers from Pueblo on

They are not supposed to ask if you attend a church.

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