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You Can and Can't Ask
Job Applicants

Limitations Before the Job Offer is Extended

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Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) has been with us in a legal sense since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of that law speaks to a prohibition of employment decisions being made based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex.

Since that legislation was signed into law other employment protections have been added to the list of protected categories. The federal list now includes a prohibition against employment descrimination based on pregnancy, age, veteran status, and physical or mental disability.

Often, individual states add their own protections to that list. Some states prohibit employment descrimination based on marital or parental status, specific illnesses (Cancer or HIV/AIDS) and more. Be sure you check on the specific requirements of the state in which you are hiring. Claiming you didn't know about a requirement is not a good defense.

The key point to remember is that employment interviewers may consider fair game anything having to do with specific job requirements. Focusing on knowledge, skills and abilities is a good way to stay out of legal trouble. And, remember, too, there is nothing wrong with asking a job candidate to demonstrate how he or she would perform specific duties or tasks the job contains. One manager said recently, "A job applicant I interviewed the other day talked a good game. He described how he had done a large project, programming in the "C" language. I asked him to write a program using the "C" language that would perform a very simple task. He couldn't do it. Turns out he was all talk. We hired someone else."

Download Five-Page Summary of Employer Guidance

If you would like to have a five-page summary of the Questions You Can and Can't Ask Before the Job Offer, click here for a copy in PDF Format (26.95 KB). This summary is based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

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