Application Etiquette

Lisa BoganyThere are many misnomers about what questions can be asked during the application process and what things should be included on the actual application. Below are some of the most frequently submitted questions Gulf Coast area employers give regarding what they can and cannot ask potential candidates.

Can employers ask, “How do you intend to get to work?”

Yes. Employers are entitled to satisfy themselves that an applicant will be able to get to work on time. However, employers should not ask whether the applicant owns a car, since this tends to imply disparate treatment towards a certain class of individuals. The only exception to this is when the job involves the use of the applicant’s own vehicle. Examples include Hot Shot Drivers, Pizza Delivery Drivers, etc.

Can employers ask, “What is your date of birth?”

Not usually, but sometimes it’s required. If the worker is 18 years of age or younger, the Code of Federal Regulations requires employers to take the date of birth in order to ensure compliance with child labor laws. However, employers who ask for the age when it’s not related to the job risk having applicants draw an adverse inference from the question. When the age is job-related, such as when an employer requires the date of birth in order to conduct a driver’s license check, the question should be placed on a separate, job-specific questionnaire.

Can employers ask, “Have you ever been arrested?”

No. Employers should only ask about convictions, or pleas of guilty or no contest/nolo contendere, and even then it should be related to the job.

Can employers ask, “What arrangements have you made for childcare?”

No. Asking applicants about children is not wise because the question has historically been used to discriminate against women.

Can employers ask, “Are you a citizen of the United States?”

No, but. What employers can ask is: “Are you a citizen of the United States, or otherwise authorized to work in this country.” There are a few exceptions for positions involving national security.

I encourage any employer who is unsure of what they can or cannot ask on applications or during interviews to contact a Business Consultant at their local career office or contact Employer Services at (713) 688-6890 for clarification.

Lisa Bogany is a Senior Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. She has over five years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers, and over 10 years experience in small business entrepreneurship.

2 Responses to “Application Etiquette”


  1. 1 M Kelling August 20, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Good reminders!

  2. 2 Mary A. Hawkins July 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    This information will be very helpful in my search for a Job.

    Thank you.


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