Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, as well as federal and state laws, prohibit asking certain questions of a job applicant, either on the application form or during the interview. What questions should you sidestep? Basically, you can't ask about anything not directly related to the job, including:

  • Age or date of birth (if interviewing a teenager, you can ask if he or she is 16 years old)
  • Sex, race, creed, color, religion or national origin
  • Disabilities of any kind
  • Date and type of military discharge
  • Marital status
  • Maiden name (for female applicants)
  • If a person is a citizen; however, you can ask if he or she has the legal right to work in the United States

Other questions you should avoid include:

  • How many children do you have? How old are they? Who will care for them while you are at work?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
  • Have you ever been arrested? (You may, however, ask if the person has been convicted if it is accompanied by a statement saying that a conviction will not necessarily disqualify an applicant for employment.)
  • How many days were you sick last year?
  • Have you ever filed for worker's compensation? Have you ever been injured on the job?

In doubt whether a question (or comment) is offensive or not? Play it safe and zip your lip. In today's lawsuit-happy environment, an offhand comment can cost you plenty.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business.