A London travel agency wanted to set up a coffee bar
for his staff. He wrote a Help Wanted ad which read:
"We require a friendly person with a flair for
preparing fresh sandwiches and making soups for a
team that deserves simple but special lunches."
The local job center refused to run the ad as written.
The travel agency owner was informed that he couldn't
advertise for a "friendly" catering manager,
because "that would discriminate against applicants
not lucky enough to have that sort of personality."
We know that 85% of a person's success in the
workplace is due to "personal skills" and only
15% is due to "technical skills." Interviewers
do look at personal traits, even if they resist asking
some of the questions they'd like to. Here are some
tricky ones that may surprise you.
When was the last time you used illegal drugs?
An employer may ask applicants about current and prior
illegal use of drugs. An individual who is currently using
illegal drugs is not protected under the ADA. For
example, an employer may ask the following of an
applicant: "Do you currently use illegal drugs? Have
you ever used illegal drugs? What illegal drugs have you
used in the last six months?"
"How old are you?" This is an illegal question.
However, it is lawful to ask: "What year did you
graduate from high school?" A little simple math
ought to provide any desired information regarding the
"What are your family plans?" Here's another
illegal question. But you can ask: "Where do you
see yourself five years from now?"
"What church do you go to? What religion are
There are no job-related considerations that would
justify asking about religious beliefs or convictions
unless your organization is a religious institution, in
which case you may give preference to individuals of
your own religion.
"What is your height? What is your weight?"
The EEOC and the courts have ruled minimum height
and weight requirements to be illegal if they screen out
a disproportionate number of minority group individuals
or women, and the employer cannot show that these
standards are essential to the safe performance of a
job in question. See Davis v. County of Los Angeles,
655 F.2d 1334 (9th Cir. 1977), vacated and remanded
as moot on other grounds, 440 U.S. 625 (1979);
Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U.S. 321 (1977).