Legal and Illegal Pre-Employment Questions – What you Need to Know

Legal and Illegal Pre Employment Questions

Pre-employment questions can cover a number of areas of your career and personal life. It’s important to distinguish between legitimate questions and those that might be illegal and hurtful to your chances of getting the job. This is especially true if you have disabilities. You want to make sure that you are not discriminated against, so pay close attention to the questions and only answer the ones that are legal and give you the best shot at the job. 


Illegal Questions:


  • What is your corrected vision?
  • When did you lose your eyesight?
  • How did you lose your eyesight?
  • Please complete the following medical history as part of the application process.
  • Have you had any recent or past illness or operations? If yes, list and give dates.
  • What was the date of your last physical exam?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Do you see a psychiatrist for stress or any mental problems?
  • Are you an alcoholic?
  • Have you ever or do you currently take recreational drugs?
  • Are you married, single, or divorced? If married, this can only be asked for insurance purposed.
  • How often do you drink alcoholic beverages?
  • How often were you sick or take off for sick days?
  • Do you use a wheelchair, and will we have to make any accommodations for the wheelchair?
  • What is your sexual orientation? Gay or Straight?
  • Do you have any kids, and do you plan on having any soon?
  • What are your political affiliations?
  • What is your religion or church? Will you require any time off for religious purposes?
  • What is your nationality or race, and what is your skin color?
  • How old are you? This can however be asked to determine if you are old enough to legally work. For example: “Are you over the age of 18”.
  • Are you a U.S. Citizen?
  • Do you require visa sponsorship?
  • What is your union affiliation?
  • Are you collecting social security benefits?
  • How heavy are you?
  • What is you military discharge status?
  • Have you ever filed for bankruptcy or currently having any financial troubles?
  • Have you even had a speeding ticket, or arrested for driving under the influence?

Legal Questions:


  • Are you able to perform the essential functions of the job?
  • As part of the company’s hiring process, after a job offer has been made, you will be required to undergo a medical exam. The results will remain confidential and will only be used if emergency medical treatment is necessary or to assist in the determination of a job accommodation.
  • As part of the company’s hiring process, after a job offer has been made, will you be able to provide information so that we can conduct a background check?
  • Will you need any accommodation to participate in the recruiting process?
  • How well can you handle stress?
  • What was your attendance record at your last employer?
  • What are your job skills, educational background, and prior work experiences?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony? This can only be asked if the position requires security clearance.
  • Why is there a gap in your employment history?
  • How many children do you have? This can only be asked for insurance purposes only.
  • Are you legally authorized to work in the United States for any employer without visa sponsorship?
  • Do you have a disability that would prevent you from performing the essential functions of the job with or with an accommodation?
  • Do you wish to participate in a company 401K retirement plan or stock options?


Now that you know what is permissible and what is discriminatory, consider how you might prepare for a situation in which the illegal questions come up. Your action depends on what makes you feel comfortable. There are three paths you can take for this type of questioning.  

1.) You could forfeit your rights and answer the question, in the hopes that it will deepen your connection with the employer rather than incite bias. There might be times when you discover that your interviewer goes to the same church or has family from a country similar to yours. You might not hesitate to disclose this information about yourself in these cases.  

2.) Alternatively, you could discreetly refuse to answer the question. For example, you might avoid answering the question directly but address the concern. If asked whether you plan to have children, you might reply: “I try to balance my work and my personal life. I can assure you that I will be focused and committed to my responsibilities here, and my personal life will not interfere with my performance.” If you elect not to answer the question but you wish to secure the position, take steps to put the interviewer at ease.

3.) You might, after hearing some of the questions, have no desire to work for a company that probes into areas of your personal life. If you decide on the spot that you do not want the job, you can go so far as to excuse yourself from the interview and even file a complaint or lawsuit. If you decide to pursue formal recourse, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Their website is, or you can call them at: 1-800-669-4000.