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Inappropriate Job Application Question

Inappropriate Job Application Question

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

A close friend applied for a job through their online resume/cover letter submission link. Then the company emailed him and asked him to fill out a separate application (which was not on their “apply now” link from their own site, but whatever). Most of the information the form requests was already answered on the resume and in the letter, but one stood out. In the section about education, it asks: “How did you finance your college education?” (This is not a company that offers tuition forgiveness, according to a current employee we know. This is not a company in the financial field, either—not banking or investments, not that I think that would matter, nor is it an educational institution.) Neither of us can figure out why this information would matter to a potential employer.

Do you think this is relevant information for a potential employer to know? Is it appropriate? Is this a usual practice—are companies doing this now? Neither of us has seen it, and we’re both inclined to think that this is no one’s business and irrelevant to the job, anyway. Why might a potential employer ask this? Can you think of any reasons why they might believe that they needed this information?

(The answer, by the way, is that he paid for college with a combination of loans and part-time work. He has not finished paying back the loans, though, partly because he got laid off several months ago.)

Nope, I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask that on a job application.

It is interesting to know if an applicant put herself through school by working, since it’s clear evidence of work ethic and drive. But it’s really no one’s business if you took out loans to pay for school or your parents paid or your grandmother helped out or you had scholarships.

Are they also going to ask how you financed your interview outfit? Or what you paid for your house?

I’d love to hear a defense of this from someone.