Illegal Interview Question: Are You a US Citizen?



Hire the Best People,

but don’t get sued

The law is an *ss — an idiot…

Charles Dickens

Your Business Blogger once ran the Human Resource function for a 14,000 employee enterprise. The boss demanded, “Get the best talent!”

And don’t get sued. It was like playing defense. You can’t win it, but you can lose it.

Anyway, when interviewing job candidates, a series of trick questions are necessary to:

1) Get answers and

2) Stay within the Law

Sometimes mutually exclusive, because the law is, well, an *ss.

So. During the interview, I would say, not ask, to the job candidate,

“That is a beautiful ring [on the third finger on the left hand]…”

“I have the five best kids on the planet…”

“I love California! I was born in San Diego…”

“I’ve been married to Charmaine for 16 years this May…”

This work is best left to your anti-personnel, personnel department. The HR professionals have become as vital as lawyers. And can kill a contact or contract even faster.

Here’s more from our friends at,

Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen? Where were you or your parents born?

Legal: Are you authorized to work in the United States? What other languages do you speak? This question is okay as long as it relates to the job you are interviewing for.

Illegal: How old are you? When is your birthday?

Legal: Are you over 18 years of age? Again, this question is considered legal if it relates to the job.

Illegal: What’s your marital status? Who do you live with? Do you plan to have a family? How many kids do you have? Do you have childcare arrangements?

Legal: Travel is an important part of the job, would you be willing to travel as needed?

Illegal: Do you belong to any clubs? What are your affiliations?

Legal: Do you belong to any professional trade organizations that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this job?

Illegal: How tall are you? How much do you weigh?

Legal: Are you able to lift a 50 lb weight and carry it more than 100 yards for this job?

Illegal: Do you have any disabilities? Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations? If so, please list the dates of these operations.

Legal: Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations?

Illegal: Have you ever been arrested?

Legal: Have you ever been convicted of a crime? The crime in question should be related to the performance of the job in question.

Illegal: If you’ve been in the military, were you honorably discharged?

Legal: What type of training or education did you receive in the military?

And this is why you will never hear back from a company about why you didn’t didn’t get that job. It is rude. But it’s not personal. It’s personnel, and

It’s the Law. It has made us all *sses.


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Thank you (foot)notes:

Photo credit US Navy.

And this is why managers are socio-paths.

Basil’s Blog has a picnic.

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4 Responses

  1. The difference between the questions it’s legal to ask and the ones you say you deliberately evade the law to ask in tricky ways are that the former are all directly related to the performance of job duties.

    Why would you want to know anything else? You seem to be saying openly that you make hiring decisions on the basis of personal prejudice and your own preferences regarding marriage, religion, and club memberships – that, after the boss explicitly told you to “get the best talent”, you did everything you could to avoid actual job-related questions, and instead to ask intrusive personal questions that only serve your own stereotypes. If you had simply asked the legal questions, you would have had extensive information actually relevant to the person’s ability to perform the job – but you went out of your way not to do that.

    Who is the *ss?

  2. Former Corn Chuckin' Champ says:

    Jack, I always thought that for something to be called “illegal” it had to be codified into a law. These questions sound like they might offend the PC police, but are not truly unlawful.

  3. The Drill SGT says:


    It’s certainly legal and reasonable to ask about citizenship in some job situations. For example, all my staff must have security clearances, you can’t get one without being a citizen. All our announcements state among the requirements:

    – Must be a US Citizen.

    – Must be eligible for a security clearance.

    And as for other positions elsewhere, in order to come to work for anybody, your employer must complete an I-9 form where you must prove that either you are a citizen or a green card holder.

  4. illegal questions not really says:

    You know what is interesting about these questions, there really is no such thing as an illegal question. At least not Federally, though State Law Can vary.

    Someone once challenged the “illegal” question myth, stating that there was NO Where in the EEO or DOL that one would find illegal questions, and yes they were correct..

    So, I decided to Call the Office of the Civil Rights Division to get the Real Skinny on this one. What WAS the REAL Down Low about this. Can Companies ask “illegal questions” and in fact was there really such a thing as an “illegal question”

    As they so Eloquently put it – “America is a free country and Employers are Free to ask what ever they want to a candidate..

    BUT Wait.. don’t get too excited Yet.. You see, it isn’t the Asking that creates the legal problem, but actually it is the WHY Are You asking this question? and WHAT are You planning to do with the information? that creates future problems..

    That is when an investigation can occur to check your selection versus hiring process to determine if you as a company is discriminating.

    Those questions above, are indeed questions one should avoid, because they could indeed come back to bite a company should they refuse to hire a qualified candidate, and that said candidate get’s in a tizzy and decides to complain to one of the Alphabet Agencies that deal with that particular issue..

    Karen Mattonen

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