Is it Legal to Ask for a Job Applicant's Date of Birth?

Employment application with glasses
••• Geri Lavrov / Moment / Getty Images

Can employers legally ask you for your date of birth on a job application? In most cases, the answer is yes. It's yes because there are other reasons why they may need the information. However, employers cannot use your age to discriminate against you. Therefore, while you might be asked your age on a job application, you should generally not be getting questions about your age during the job interview.

Read below for more information on when employers can ask for your date of birth, what to do if you think you are discriminated against, and how to respond to questions about your age and other subjects.

When Employers Can Ask for Your Date of Birth

Employers are within their rights if they ask you for your date of birth during the job screening process. The key factor will be what employers do with this information since they are strictly prohibited from discriminating against job candidates or employees on the basis of age. These protections are provided under the Age Discrimination Act of 1967.

Most employers will request your date of birth to facilitate background checks. Completing background checks on job applicants is now common practice by employers. These background checks might include a review of your commercial, criminal, or even financial records. Having your date of birth makes it easier for employers to complete these checks.

There are also other occasions when it is necessary to know an employee’s age. For example, if there is a minimum age requirement for a job, the employer needs to know that you fit that requirement.

What Employers Should Do With Date of Birth Information

Employers will generally keep this information separate from the candidate data that interviewers will access as part of the screening process in order to protect their organization from allegations of age discrimination. So, even though you have complied with the request on a job application, the interviewer shouldn’t be asking any age-related questions.

How to Respond to Questions About Your Age

Asking how old you are in an interview is something interviewers should not ask, as it can be a sign of age discrimination. Below are some questions about your age that interviewers shouldn't ask:

  • How old are you?
  • When did you graduate?
  • What is your date of birth?

Regardless, you might still get a question about your age, since it is not technically illegal. You can choose not to answer, or even end the interview. Keep in mind that this kind of strong response will likely knock you out of the running for the position. If you are uncomfortable with questions asked by the employer, it might even be a sign that the company is not a good fit. However, it might just be a case of an inexperienced or untrained interviewer and not indicative of a potentially toxic work culture.

You can also answer the questions by emphasizing aspects of your personality or professional activity that show you aren’t coasting in your career or lacking in energy. For example, rather than stating your age or date of birth, you can respond like this: “I don’t believe that my age would be an issue for my performance of this job because ……….” You can point out that you have been active with your professional development to stay abreast of changes in the field.

Mentioning your facility with the latest technology tools in your field can help. Sharing youth oriented activities like hiking, skiing, running, and weight lifting can demonstrate your energy level and physical stamina. If you have worked extensive hours in your recent jobs and are willing to do so in your target job, you can reference your work ethic. Presenting information about a perfect attendance record can allay any concerns about health issues. 

You can also emphasize the skills and abilities you have that make you a strong candidate for the job. For example, you can prove that age is not an issue in your answers to questions such as, “Why should we hire you?” and “What skills do you have that make you a strong candidate?” Provide specific examples to prove that you have these skills and abilities.

Be Proactive

Making sure that your image is as youthful as possible might make it less likely that you will be asked age-related questions. Consult a stylist if you have questions but make sure your wardrobe and hairstyle don't make you appear older. For some candidates that might include coloring some grey. 

Review your documents carefully and incorporate reference to professional development and technical skills whenever feasible. Stay in touch with trends in your field and incorporate resume/cover letter statements that reflect accomplishments related to those trends. Employers may not see the need to ask about your age if they are assured that you are current in your field. Read more about how to respond to questions about your age.

How to Respond to Other Questions Employers Shouldn't Ask

Age is not the only subject that is illegal for an interviewer to address. Other topics include race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin, among others.

If you are asked a question about one of these topics in an interview, there are multiple ways you can respond. You can simply refuse to answer, or even end the interview. You can also choose to answer more vaguely, and emphasize why you are a good fit for the job without directly answering the question.

Read here for more information about how to answer illegal interview questions.

If You Think You Have Been Discriminated Against

If an interviewer seems preoccupied with your age and you believe that discrimination may have limited your access to a job, you may want to contact U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or consult a labor lawyer.