Prohibited and Acceptable Questions

These guidelines show the kinds of questions that are prohibited and acceptable during a job interview and before a job offer has been made.

To ask about other specific interview questions, contact your unit's HR professional, the central Office of Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, or the Office of the General Counsel.

Sample Questions

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Age

Acceptable

Asking whether candidate will be able to provide legal proof of ability to work after hired

Prohibited

  • Questions about age or date of birth or request for birth certificate
  • Any inquiry for the purpose of excluding any age over the age of majority (age 40 under federal law, age 18 under state law)
  • How do you feel about working for someone younger than you?
  • Inquiries about the date of high school or college graduation

Arrest Record

Acceptable

None

Prohibited

Any inquiry related to arrests. OHR and the Office of the General Counsel must be consulted first to determine if any exception is warranted.

Conviction Record

Acceptable

Inquiries about an actual conviction. The information may only be used in the hiring decision if it relates to the applicant's fitness for the job. Such inquiries should be approved by OHR with consultation with the Office of the General Counsel first so that any pre-employment screening complies with University and legal requirements.

Prohibited

Inquiries about conviction that do not relate to performance of the job. Conviction of a crime cannot be an automatic bar to employment by a public entity in Minnesota.

Disabilities/Perceived Disabilities

Acceptable

  • You may ask candidates whether they will need reasonable accommodation for the hiring process. Ask this question of all candidates.
  • Explicitly state the essential elements of the position and ask whether the candidate can perform the functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Ask this question of all candidates.
  • Requests for candidates to describe or demonstrate how they would perform job tasks. Ask this information of all candidates.
  • Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can meet these attendance requirements. Ask this question of all candidates.
  • Post-offer physical examinations may be appropriate for certain positions. These arrangements should be approved through OHR before the hiring process begins.

Prohibited

  • Are you handicapped?
  • Do you have AIDS/asthma/or any other physical or mental condition?
  • What is the nature or severity of your disability?
  • Do you have a disability that would interfere with your ability to perform the job?
  • Do you drink, take lawful drugs, or have you completed a chemical dependency rehabilitation program?

Gender

Acceptable

  • Sex of the applicant when it is a bona fide occupational qualification, such as an actor or actress for a particular role.
  • Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can work these hours. Ask this question of all applicants of all genders.
  • What are your salary expectations?

Prohibited

  • Sex of candidate, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification
  • Do you have children?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you plan to have children?
  • What are your child care arrangements?
  • What is the minimum salary/wage you will accept?

Marital Status

Acceptable

Questions regarding any names the candidate has had. Ask this question of both sexes.

Prohibited

  • What is your marital status?
  • Are you married, single or divorced?
  • Do you go by Miss, Mrs., or Ms.?
  • What is your maiden name?

Military Service

Acceptable

Inquiries about education and training related to the job

Prohibited

  • Are you in the military?
  • Do you think that you will need any leaves of absence?

National Origin

Acceptable

  • Are you legally eligible to work in the U.S.?
  • Assessment of all candidates regarding whether they are able to communicate well enough to perform the job

Prohibited

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • What is your place of birth?
  • What is your native language?
  • Where are you originally from?
  • What country are your spouse or parents from?

Non-work Activities

Acceptable

  • None, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification, such as asking about having a driver's license where the individual would have to drive in performance of work duties.
  • Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can work those hours. Ask this question of all candidates.

Prohibited

  • Do you drink alcohol?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes?
  • Do you have a driver's license/own a car?

Public Assistance Status

Acceptable

None, except questions regarding how the candidate can be contacted regarding the job.

Prohibited

  • Do you currently receive public assistance (welfare benefits)?
  • Have you ever received public assistance?
  • Do you own or rent a home?

Race and Color

Acceptable

None, except voluntary self-identification on affirmative action form for use by the Office of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action in reporting requirements and institutional assessment.

Prohibited

Any questions regarding hair color, eye color, complexion, height, weight, or ability to work with employees of another race

Religion

Acceptable

Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can work those hours with reasonable accommodations if necessary. Ask this question of all candidates.

Prohibited

  • What is your religion?
  • Can you work Saturdays and/or Sundays?

Sexual Orientation

Acceptable

None. After hiring you may ask the name and telephone number of the individual to contact in case of an emergency.

Prohibited

  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What is your relationship to the emergency contact you have listed?

Union Affiliation

Acceptable

None.

Prohibited

Are you now or have you ever been a member of a union?