Labor and Employment

Interview Questions about Personal Matters



  • I was fired from my last job. What should I tell prospective employers?

  • What types of questions are illegal for an employer to ask me?

  • I know I was the most qualified applicant, but I didn't get the job. That's discrimination, right?

  • I'm pregnant. Can an employer refuse to hire me?

  • If I am pregnant, can an employer refuse to hire me because it is concerned for the safety of the fetus ?

  • If the job that I am applying for requires immediate availability for sustained work and I am pregnant,  can the employer refuse to hire me?

  • Can an employer refuse to treat me better than other job applicants  on the basis that I am pregnant?

  • What type of information can be gathered during a background check ?

  • Can an employer refuse to hire me because of my criminal conviction?

  • The application states a polygraph test must be taken before an offer can be made. Do I have to take the test?

  • The company requires both a psychological and drug test for prospective employees. Isn't this an invasion of privacy?




    Q: I was fired from my last job. What should I tell prospective employers?

    A: The truth. If you lie about it and it's later discovered, you may be fired from the new job for lying on the application. Present the termination in the most favorable light by listing a contact person who respected your contributions to your former employer. If asked who your supervisor was, provide accurate information. Dwelling on what happened or being overly critical of your former employer may hurt your opportunities.


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    Q: What types of questions are illegal for an employer to ask me?

    A: Federal law forbids an employer from discriminating against any person on the basis of sex, age, race, national origin or religion. Your employer may ask questions related to the job you're seeking, but not personal, private questions that don't have a direct bearing on your ability to perform the functions of the job, such as:

    But it's best to be honest with yourself about how personal issues might impact your ability to perform the job requirements. For instance, having children may prohibit you from completing travel that's required for the position. If you accept the position and then are not able to fulfill the job requirements, you may be back looking for a new position sooner than you ever anticipated.


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    Q: I know I was the most qualified applicant, but I didn't get the job. That's discrimination, right?

    A: Not necessarily. The employer isn't required to hire the most qualified applicant. And there may not be a way for you to know with certainty that you were the most qualified. An employer IS prohibited from making the hiring decision based on a person's membership in a "protected class" such as sex, age, race, national origin or religion.


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    Q: I'm pregnant. Can an employer refuse to hire me?

    A: Yes, but NOT due to the pregnancy, except in situations where your pregnancy would prevent you from performing the major functions of the job.


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    Q: If I am pregnant, can an employer refuse to hire me because it is concerned for the safety of the fetus?

    A: No, an employer cannot refuse to hire you on the basis that it is concerned about the safety of the fetus. The law leaves it up to you to decide whether to assume any known risks of the workplace.


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    Q: If the job that I am applying for requires immediate availability for sustained work and I am pregnant, can the employer refuse to hire me?

    A: Yes, an employer can refuse to hire you if the job you are applying for requires immediate availability for sustained work and you are pregnant. In this case, immediate availability for sustained work is a critical job qualification, and if you are not able to meet that qualification because of pregnancy, the employer does not have to hire you.


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    Q: Can an employer refuse to treat me better than other job applicants on the basis that I am pregnant?

    A: Yes, the employer can refuse to treat you better than other applicants. The law requires that the employer cannot treat employees differently on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Therefore, the employer does not have to give you special consideration for employment on the basis that you are pregnant.


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    Q: What type of information can be gathered during a background check?

    A: A "background check" can vary from one prospective employer to the next, depending on what's important to the employer to review before hiring. A check can include a number of items, such as:

    For a potential employer to obtain many of your personal records, such as credit history or educational records, you must give specific authorization. If an employer bases the decision not to hire you due to the information found on a credit report, the employer must comply with all the Fair Credit Reporting Act's notice and disclosure requirements. If an applicant believes the information is wrong, the applicant can inform the screening agency, which must remove or correct inaccurate or unverified information, usually within 30 days.


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    Q: Can an employer refuse to hire me because of a criminal conviction?

    A: That depends on:

    Check with your state Department of Labor.

    In many cases, the employer can refuse to hire you. An example would be if the prior conviction is theft-related, and the position involves handling money. Arrests that didn't lead to a conviction need not be disclosed.


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    Q: The application states a polygraph test must be taken before an offer can be made. Do I have to take the test?

    A: The Employee Polygraph Protection Act ("EPPA") significantly restricts the ability of private employers in the application of polygraph tests, either in pre-employment screening or with current employees, except in limited instances. Local, state, and Federal government agencies (such as police departments) as well as public agencies (school districts) aren't affected by the law.


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    Q: The company requires both a psychological and drug test for prospective employees. Isn't this an invasion of privacy?

    A: Psychological testing is permitted as long as the tests aren't designed to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin. This is an area where employers must exhibit extreme caution.

    The laws on drug testing vary tremendously from state to state. Some states allow them in limited instances. Some states prohibit them altogether, and some states allow all kinds of testing.


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  • Medical or disabling conditions you may have
  • Whether or not you are married, or have plans to marry
  • Whether or not you have or plan to have children
  • Your religious beliefs (unless the employer is a religious-based organization)
  • Your age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Where you were born
  • Whether you have ever been arrested
  • Criminal records
  • Credit reports
  • Driving records
  • Education records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • State law
  • What the conviction was for
  • Whether it's related to the job in question
  • How long ago it was
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