Paying Respect to The Job Application Form

In the passionate pursuit to be authentic and create an awesome culture, people keep wanting to

If this is what you think about job application forms you're missing something...really.

If this is what you think about job application forms you’re missing something…really.

do away with really crucial stuff, like job application forms. They don’t want their first interaction with someone to be filling out a bunch of boxes. They just want to use their intuitive superpowers to see whether they connect with people. I get it! But they’re wrong. Because no matter how idealistic you want to be, if you are running a business and you would like to keep that business, you have to practice CYA.

Job application forms serve a lot of functions many employers probably never think about. Employers tend to think about job applications as helping them learn more about candidates. But there are many things organizations are required to disclose to candidates and job applications are a perfect vehicle for doing that. Organizations, for example, are required by law to outline a candidate’s rights during the selection and interview process. Where better to make that available to candidates than the application? And, in the State of Texas, the Department of Insurance requires that you provide information to candidates about whether you have workers’ comp insurance. If they sign the application you have proof—in case you need it—that you’re providing this kind of information to candidates.

Of course, applications also provide crucial information to organizations about candidates. And they make sure all the necessary questions are asked, which never happens in a regular job interview. In addition to asking about where they’ve lived and worked you can ask things like whether they’re under any non-compete or non-disclosure agreements which might wind up creating a lot of problems when you want them to do the job you hired them for. You can ask about felony convictions, not with the idea that they can’t work for you but more that you need to put them into the proper job. If you want someone to drive your ice cream truck, you don’t want to hire the person with a handful of DWIs. However, that person may be absolutely stellar at making ice cream. And the person with a terrible credit record might be awesome at managing employees, just don’t put that person in charge of the books.

Also if someone lies or leaves key information off the application, that tells you something about who you’re dealing with. I had a client with an applicant who failed to mention the year she lived in Washington State. She had a conviction there and figured if she just left the address off the application, no one would ever know. The company ran a national background check and found her former address and the conviction. We had to tell the candidate that she wasn’t cut from the list because of the conviction, she was cut from the list because she wasn’t honest. And the client avoided a bad hire.

Here’s the material point. You can’t fail to have an application and you really, really, really shouldn’t have a boilerplate application either. You need an application that covers all the bases for the industry you’re in and the types of positions you hire. You need it to match federal and state and sometimes city standards for a whole bunch of different agencies and to cover you in case someone comes back later and accuses you of discriminatory hiring or failure to disclose information or some other thing.

The job application isn’t a formality but neither is it the totality of your relationship with candidates. You can always do a great job of responding to candidates, answering their questions, making them feel comfortable when you bring them in for interviews. The application isn’t there to be warm and fuzzy, it serves another purpose. One you may be very glad, one day, that you didn’t ignore.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at or call (512) 420-8267



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