The hiring process already tends to be time-consuming and stressful, so many business owners may be wondering what they can do to speed it up. You may see an employment application as an unnecessary step. After all, if a candidate submits their resume and a cover letter, what more could you need?
Many human resources professionals and employment attorneys would face-palm at that thought. An employment application is another way to determine if an applicant is qualified and a good fit for the job. It also fulfills some essential legal requirements.
Typically, a candidate must complete a company’s application form to apply for a job, often instead of or in addition to their resumes.
Still wondering if employment applications are necessary for your organization? Here are four reasons you should, along with some tips on what to include and avoid in your template.
4 Reasons to Use Employment Applications
1. Perform Additional Screening
Since the applicant creates their resume, you don’t know what they’re including or excluding to look better on paper. A job application form requires specific details of their experience and background, with questions tailored by you and your team.
Hiring managers can then cross-reference a candidate’s resume and application to verify that they meet the qualifications and ensure consistency. This helps them narrow down the talent pool more quickly and paints a complete picture of the candidate. And if you choose to move them to the interview phase, you can customize interview questions.
Check out this post for tips on how to hire the right candidate.
2. Gather Organized & Consistent Information
Collecting information such as the candidate’s education, employment history, and reference checks in one document makes the hiring process more manageable. You will also be able to compare candidates more easily by standardizing the format and information requested.
Overall, a job application saves both the company and the applicant time and energy.
3. Collect Legal Information & Prevent Discrimination Claims
An employment application plays a vital role in gathering legal information by allowing your company to:
- Authorize reference and background checks or verification of application information if necessary.
- Ensure the candidate understands your business is an equal opportunity employer.
- Inform the applicant that a criminal conviction listed on their application will not disqualify them from being hired and that the company will consider: the nature or gravity of any offense or conduct; how long ago the conviction occurred/jail sentence ended; and the responsibilities of the job at hand.
- Confirm they understand their employment is at will, and a job offer is not a contract.
- Have them verify that the information they have provided is accurate and truthful.
- Inform them that false or missing information could lead to application rejection or, if hired, discipline up to and including termination.
Companies must keep employment applications to comply with federal regulations, typically for at least one year. It essentially serves as a legal agreement, which the resume cannot. If an issue occurs in the future and you learn information on an employee’s resume was inaccurate or untrue, your organization could be disadvantaged.
Resumes come in various formats, and some even include photos, which can lead to discrimination. Standardizing the information with an employment application decreases the risk of discrimination claims.
Know the employment laws in your area, as both federal and state legislation prohibits employers from using certain background information in employment decisions.
4. Ask for Voluntary Self-identification Data
Include a section on your organization’s employment application form requesting applicants’ voluntary self-identification data for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This also helps assure your company is following non-discriminatory hiring and diversity promotion practices and policies.
This section can invite applicants to self-identify their:
- Veteran status
Additionally, government agencies request this information to help complete a yearly Affirmative Action Plan (AAP). An AAP is required for all government contractors with 50 or more employees and $50,000 in government contracts.
What to Include in Your Employment Application Form
We’ve already listed some important legal information to collect, but your employment application template should also ask applicants for their:
- Legal name
- Address, phone number, and email address
- Eligibility to work in the U.S.
- Education information & graduation dates
- Availability (when the candidate can start working)
- Employment history (companies, positions held, and dates of employment)
- Permission to contact previous employers
- Desired salary
When you create your own job application, you can also ask unique questions to know a candidate better. You can even adjust these questions based on the job, such as:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision.
- Can you share an example of your problem-solving skills?
- Can you tell me about your most recent experience working with a team?
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership abilities.
- Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
- What are your strengths, and how would they benefit this position?
- What are your hobbies and interests?
Choose a few questions like those above that you feel will give you a strong sense of the candidate and whether or not they are the right fit for the position and your company. Remember, you can always expand on this and ask more questions during the interview.
What to Avoid on the Job Application
Be wary of asking for illegal or confidential information. Avoid questions about race, sex, age, religion, or disability to mitigate potential discrimination lawsuits. As noted above, you can include a voluntary self-identification section asking about ethnicity, gender, veteran status, and disabilities. You cannot require candidates to disclose this information.
Tread lightly around salary questions, too—many states now prohibit businesses from asking candidates for their current or most recent salaries. While you should not ask the candidate for their current or past salary information, you can ask their salary expectations for this position. Check your state laws for more details.
Some states have even made it illegal to ask candidates if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime on the job application form. Again, check your state’s laws before creating the form.
It is also advisable to have your attorney review your employment application to ensure it complies with employment laws in your state or jurisdiction. They should assess your company’s job application form regularly to maintain compliance with changing regulations, paying particular attention to questions on:
- Criminal history
- Credit reporting
- Any aspect of job capability related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Length of time the application is active
An experienced human resources consultant can also help you create a standard employment application that streamlines your hiring process, enables you to identify the most qualified candidates, and keeps your company compliant. Contact BlueLion today at email@example.com or 603-818-4131 to learn more.
The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.