An employment application form, or job application form, is a document that allows people to apply for a job with your company. It gathers information about the candidate, such as their name and work experience. A good employment application form may even help job seekers self-determine whether they’re qualified to work at your company or not.
Free Employment Application Form Template
This sample job application is a good starting point and can be adapted for your business by adding additional sections and questions.
What to Ask & What to Avoid on Your Employment Application Form
The purpose of the employment application form is to gather basic information about each candidate and help you determine which candidates you’d like to move further along in the hiring process.
The chart below shows what we recommend including in your job application form. We also include information that it’s best not to ask on the employment application form or during the interview process, along with the reasons why.
For example, some questions risk that the information gathered may violate federal labor laws, anti-discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, age discrimination laws like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) laws, which protect a person’s confidential health-related information.
What to Include & What to Ask on Your Job Application
|Full Legal Name||Marital Status, Salutations||Title VII, Sexism & Gender Discrimination|
|Email Address||Physical or Mailing Address||Title VII, Financial Status & Race|
|Phone Number||Social Security Number or Tax Status||Privacy & Data Security|
|Preferred Name||Race, Gender and Age||Title VII & ADEA|
|Military Service – Skill Set Acquired||Military Dates or Discharge Reasons||Title VII, HIPAA & ADEA|
|Years of Related Experience||Date of Birth||Title VII & ADEA|
|Degrees Achieved, Specialties or Majors and Educational Institutions||Graduation Dates||Title VII & ADEA|
|Eligibility to Work in the United States||Citizenship and Visa Status||Title VII & Ethnicity|
|Work History and Job Skills||Reasons for Termination From a Prior Job, Arrest Record, References or Prior Salary||Title VII, HIPAA, Wage Discrimination & Legal Issues Like Libel|
20 Good Questions to Ask on a Job Application Form
The main thing to keep in mind when creating an employment application form is to ask targeted questions that give you a keen understanding of the value a job candidate can bring to your company. Stick to questions about job performance, work experience and behavior.
The employment application questions below will help you to identify interpersonal traits, such as communication skills, thoughtfulness, motives and the candidate’s ability to work collaboratively. Answers to two or three of these kinds of questions can give you a good sense of who the job seeker really is, beyond skills. They help you determine whether the job applicant will be a good fit for the role and your company culture.
Here are 20 questions to choose from that you may want to ask on your job application form.
- What about our company is most exciting to you?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- How many hours can you work weekly and what shifts are you available?
- Are you able to commute to our location in a reasonable amount of time?
- What were your best accomplishments in your last role?
- Describe when you had to make a tough choice. What did you have to choose between and why did you choose it?
- Provide an example of a time you worked collaboratively with a team.
- Provide a detailed example of a time you demonstrated leadership.
- Describe your relationship with your last immediate supervisor.
- What would your most recent supervisor have to say about you?
- Why did you move on, or why are you looking to move on, from your most recent position?
- Describe your ideal manager.
- Describe yourself in five words.
- What accomplishment are you most proud of in your personal or professional life?
- Provide a short list of your personal strengths (they do not have to be job-related).
- Describe how you are able to overcome your top three weaknesses.
- Provide a one- or two-sentence glimpse of your primary career goal.
- If money were no object, what would you do as your career?
- Describe a time when you “took one for the team.”
- What was your favorite job in your past and why?
Pro Tip: Five Questions is Usually Enough
While you don’t want to scare away applicants or make your application form unduly long, you do want to include up to five questions from the list. If you’re thinking some of these questions are better saved for the interview, you’re not wrong. However, asking a few of these on the employment application form may save you from having to interview the person at all.
Think of it as “pre-screening.” It just saves time by getting you to more qualified candidates faster, as poor candidates will expose themselves with answers like, “I don’t know”. If an applicant isn’t willing to provide five short answers on an application, do you think they will make a good employee? Probably not.
5 Questions Not to Ask & Why They May Pose a Legal Risk
On a job application form, you want to avoid five types of questions that can cause legal headaches and that waste time. Some of these are risky based on federal law.
- Questions about protected characteristics, such as race, age, gender and religion. You should avoid these questions because they relate to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which affects all employers with more than 15 employees. Questions about race, gender or marital status can reveal if someone is a member of a protected class and cause unintentional bias on your part. Questions about age violate the ADEA.
- Questions about confidential information like medical conditions, Social Security numbers, I-9 and tax status. Some questions around confidential information like Social Security numbers and tax status can be asked either after hiring or, if necessary, as a condition of the offer (like passing a background screen or credit check). Medical, pregnancy and disability information remains private due to HIPAA laws, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the ADA — to prevent discriminating against a disabled person. They should never be asked about on a job application form.
- Questions about salary history may cause you to subconsciously offer a female or minority less pay than other employees in the same role. It’s OK to ask what kind of salary or pay range the applicant is seeking but, due to recent legal changes in many states, it can be risky to ask questions about the applicant’s prior salary history. In addition, your unconscious bias may cause you to eliminate good candidates thinking either that they made too much at their last job or that they’ve only held lower paying jobs — even if they have the right skills for your position. In a nutshell, you should pay a candidate based on your job requirements, not the prior salary he or she earned.
- Questions about criminal background. Some states are cracking down on employers who ask questions like “have you ever been arrested?” Others have banned the box asking if an applicant has been convicted of a felony.
- Questions that won’t help you determine if an applicant is a good fit for the job, which wastes the applicant’s and your time — such as “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be and why?” Avoid unnecessary questions by having a team member, your human resources representative or the manager of the team read the application form. Does everything matter to the role? Is anything extraneous? Are there any nonsense questions you should eliminate?
Should All Businesses Have An Employment Application Form?
An employment application form can be a great pre-screening tool but it’s not right for all small businesses. In fact, many jobs posted online don’t require a paper form. Here are the main two situations where an employment application form makes sense:
1. Your Target Job Seeker is an Hourly Worker or a Walk-in Applicant
If you have walk-in clientele, then it’s a good idea to have a simple one-page employment application form because you’ll surely have walk-in job seekers. For example, restaurants, clothing stores, cafes, daycares and other brick-and-mortar businesses often have people pounding down their doors to see if they are hiring. You’ll want something for them to fill out and give back to you.
If you are primarily online or in an industry where clients do not walk into your office, you may not need an application form. In that case, candidates will likely submit resumes with cover letters via email, your website, or an online job posting site.
2. You Want to Keep Job Seeker Information on File For a Future Opening
A job application form is handy if you get a blind solicitation from a job seeker, such as by email, and want to give them an employment application form to fill out. This is helpful when you don’t have a job opening at the moment but want to gather their information in case something opens up. You can send them a PDF link to your form via email.
Depending on your type of business, the job application can be a way to not just find great talent that matches what you need but also serves to create an on-demand pipeline if someone resigns, walks out or is fired. You then have a list of names with emails and phone numbers to call, eliminating last-minute panic.
When & How Long to Save Job Applications
Save your completed job applications in a simple way. Three folders are all you need — rejected, hired and currently in the pipeline. Organize the applications within each folder by date, most recent first.
In most states, you must retain job application forms for at least one year. Once an applicant has been hired, is older than age 40 or in a protected class, two years may be safer. Here’s what SHRM recommends. Of course, why keep all that paper when you can organize applicants digitally in an applicant tracking system.
Disclaimer: FitSmallBusiness provides education, templates, and information. To be safe, have your attorney view your employment application and job application retention needs to ensure your business is compliant with all federal, state and local requirements.
Once you have your employment application form created and approved, start using it. Add it to your “we’re hiring” page on your website or print copies and leave them on your service counter. You’ll probably find that you not only get better applicant information from candidates that meet your business needs but you’ll have a tool you can use when you’re out and about and just happen to stumble upon someone you’d like to hire. Just hand them a job application or get their email so you can send them one.