I'm part of a group that gets job openings for short term contract gigs, often done in retail environments. During the interviews or online application process, a lot of companies ask for rather off subject and very personal information. For example one company asked for my bank account's direct deposit information in the initial stages of the application and I couldn't submit the online form until it was completed. Is this illegal?

Another asks me to fill in profile information including my gender, age, height, hair colour, eye colour etc. Is this legal? The job was for being a secret shopper at grocery stores and this was well before any job offer was even made.

I think what the companies claim in their defense is they want this information in case they latter get work that would be a match for someone already on their roster.

1 Answer 1


Direct deposit info is typically requested so that a company can pay via direct deposit. Some companies, for contract work, do not pay by any other means.

For "secret shopper" work (which I have done), companies may want to be sure that you fit their profile of a "typical" shopper, or even to make sure that a number of shoppers with different profiles are assigned to a given location or chain, so that managers cannot pick out secret shoppers by profile..

Note also that laws restricting what questions may be asked in an interview will vary by jurisdiction, and the question does not currently state what jurisdiction you are located in. In the US, such laws are generally state laws, and will vary rather widely from state to state.

Note also that firms employing "secret shoppers" are generally quite insistent that they are contractors and not employees, and many of the laws restricting what may be asked apply only to prospective employees. (Indeed at least one such firm required that I register a DBA before I qualified for any assignments, as evidence that I was an independent worker.)

It will vary by jurisdiction, but in at least some US states the questions you have mentioned would be legal.

While it is not really relevant to the question, my experience is that one cannot make even a pretense at a living from "secret shopper" gigs unless one is signed up to several different firms at once.

  • 1
    "Direct deposit info is typically requested so that a company can pay via direct deposit" I understand that but they are asking for my banking information even before I had an interview. Maybe it's not illegal but I feel it's unsafe.
    – user21966
    Nov 26, 2018 at 2:20
  • @user21966: My experience is that most such positions neveer have a real interview, if you get through the application process, you are "hired" and allowed to receive assignments. I worked for 10 different "secret shopping" firms and none of them abused my banking info. You can determine if the firm is legit. If that doesn't make you feel safe enough, then you should probably try some other line of work. All this is only my opnion, of course. Nov 26, 2018 at 15:04

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