11/30/13 By Jennifer Brown

Job-ApplicationAbout a month ago, I wrote about the key HR documents that every business owner needs to have in place – one of these is the job application. Job applications are a key source of information for you, the employer,

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and should help you identify the candidates that best meet the position requirements. They also provide candidates with an impression of your company as well as important notices and information that protect your business. Nonetheless, similar to offer letters, while job applications can help to prevent problems; they can also create problems if not carefully written. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you develop an application:

1. ONLY ask job-related information;
2. ensure appropriate disclaimers and notices are included;
3. know the Federal as well as your State and local government’s regulations regarding what can and can’t be asked on an application;
4. develop an easy to read, professional looking application that includes your logo and is free of typos and grammatical errors – remember, your application is a reflection of your company;
5. create a standard application; and
6. have it reviewed by an employment attorney.

Examples of job-related information that you should gather as part of the application include:

• Candidate contact information (e.g., name, email, phone number)
• Date candidate can start and desired salary
• Education overview (e.g., name of school, graduated – yes or no, degree/major)
• Employment record (e.g., employer name, supervisor name and contact information, dates of employment, last salary, and reason for leaving)
• Professional references (e.g., name/title, relationship, years known, and phone number)
• Whether the current employer may be contacted

Always ask yourself if the questions on your application are related to the job. Do not ask questions:

• that elicit information related to legally protected characteristics such as disabilities, medical conditions, pregnancy, race, national origin, gender, or age.
• about an applicant’s social security number.
• about graduation dates as these can be used to determine someone’s age.
• about marital status, childcare arrangements, or maiden name.
• related to medical conditions, workers compensation claim history, or use of sick or family leave.
• about religious practices.

Be sure to review the Federal and your State and local government’s regulations and guidelines regarding information that can be included on an application. One particular area to pay attention to

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are questions related to criminal history. The EEOC has isssued enforcement guidance (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/practices/inquiries_arrest_conviction.cfm) regarding asking about criminal history as part of an application. In addition, State and local government laws regarding arrest records and criminal convictions vary widely and by industry. For example, some states and municipalities have enacted laws prohibiting employers from making any inquiry (“ban the box”) about an applicant’s criminal history on application forms.

The last section of an employment application should include employee authorizations and employer notices and disclaimers. These include:

• At will employment notice
• Authorization to conduct background and reference checks
• Drug testing requirements (if applicable)
• Consequences

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for providing false or misleading information
• Period of which application will be considered active
• Space for applicant to sign and date application

Note: I also like to include a place on each page of the application for the applicant to write their name. This way if any pages get out of order of misplaced, you know to which applicant they apply.

There are several other best practices to consider when developing and using a job application. Include on the application:

1. an Equal Opportunity Statement that affirms that your business is aware of and adheres to equal opportunity employment principals.
2. a statement (if you are covered by the Americans with Disability Act) informing candidates that they may request any necessary accommodation to participate in the application process.

In addition, be sure to save all applications for at least a year – check the Federal, your State/local government, and OFCCP (if applicable) regulations for specific retention periods. If you are a Federal government contractor, you may have to comply with other rules and regulations related to applications. Be sure to review the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) website.

The job application is a critical part of your decision making process regarding inviting a candidate for an interview and ultimately hiring one person versus another. In addition, applications must meet legal requirements – otherwise, they will expose you to liability claims and penalties for non-compliance. Therefore, be sure your application only asks about job-related information; contains the needed authorizations, disclaimers and notices; and is compliant with Federal as well as your State and local government laws.


photo credit

Jennifer Brown is the founder of PeopleTactics LLC, she is devoted to helping small business owners implement solutions to prevent Human Resources problems that drain them of their time, money, and energy. Jennifer works with small businesses in order to help them build stronger employee relationships, understand and comply with employment laws, establish policies, and set up easy-to-use HR systems to consistently avoid problems.

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