Imagine you are the most talented professional in your industry and you happen to be a free agent. You see a list of companies that have open positions that match your skill set. What’s the first thing you do? Apply for the position. In some cases, you can simply send a resume straight to a recruiter but more often you’ll need to go to the company website and go through the application process. So, the application process is the first time you, the most talented professional in your industry, get a quality look at this company that would greatly benefit from your skills. The 5 steps below will help ensure a strong application so that you knock out the bad eggs, stay legally safe, and top talent gets a good first impression.
1 – Review Applications that Currently Exist
There are so many different kinds of applications currently being used. Some companies don’t have a strong online presence and therefore use a paper application. Other companies will only offer an online application to begin the process. Maybe using both online and paper applications works best for your company. If this is the case, make sure that the online and paper applications requesting the same information if it’s for the same position. It’s a good idea to explore the style and type of questions that other companies are asking. You should never copy another organization’s application but you can note what you like and don’t like about each of them.
2 – Customize the Items to Match the Target Position
This is where you really want to tailor your application to the target position. There are some basic elements to consider during this process:
- Background Information – These are the basics: contact info, position applied for, expected salary, availability, etc. This section can also include some “knock out” questions depending on the target position. For example, “Are you 18 years or older?”, “Do you have a legal right to work in the United States?”, etc.
- Specific Job Requirements – Here you can ask if the candidate holds a specific certificate, technical skills, ability to travel, etc.
- Education and Training – Ask questions surrounding education. For example, “What is your highest level of education?”, “Did you graduate and with what degree?”, etc.
- Work Experience – Ask questions about previous work experience. You can ask for names and addresses of past employers, position and job duties, dates of employment, a reason for leaving, etc.
- Additional Information – You could also ask for professional references or any other information that falls outside of the areas above.
The application should be used as a true pre-screening tool so make sure to ask questions that will help you clearly identify applicants that will be unable to comply with job requirements.
3 – Check for Legal Issues
You need to make sure that you don’t have any legal issues with your application. Does it comply with federal regulations? Does it comply with state regulations? In order to get an idea of what to ask and what not to ask, here are some helpful examples:
- Don’t Ask – How old are you?
- Do Ask – Are you 18 years or older?
- Don’t Ask – What country are you from?
- Do Ask – Do you have a legal right to work in the United States?
- Don’t Ask – What is your native language?
- Do Ask – Do you write or speak any languages other than English?
This gives you an idea of some legal trouble you could get into if you’re not careful to ask the right questions and in the right way. You may have to collect information about applicants’ race, gender, age, and so in order to comply with EEOC reporting standards for companies with more than 100 employees. This information, however, cannot be used to make screening decisions. It’s a good idea to have your legal department give the green light before publishing your application. Otherwise, make sure you understand the federal and state employee laws so that you can avoid costly legal setbacks.
4 – Make Sure the Application Flows Smoothly and Looks Good
It’s all about making your candidate have a quick, smooth, and happy experience applying for a job. For online applications, this is sometimes out of our control when it comes to technical issues. However, we can control the flow of questions, length, visual stimulation, etc. For myself, I really like a process that is quick and easy. The average candidate is not applying to only one position and therefore is filling out an application, with the same information, over and over again. You can ask candidates to sign into a professional social media account and link up information to instantly feed into your application. It is also helpful to send applicants on to the next step when the application process is complete. For example, if there is an online assessment requirement, provide a link to the assessment or at least some language educating the candidate on the next step in the hiring process.
What percentage of your applicant pool will be applying on a mobile device? This is another great question to consider. According to Indeed, 78% of people in the US would apply to jobs on their mobile devices if the process were simplified. The desire to use a mobile device to do just about everything is increasing at a rapid pace. Consider not only how you can make your application process mobile friendly but also how to make it better than the competition.
5 – Ask the Big 3 Questions
Once you’ve finished your application work of art, you need to ask 3 important questions:
- Will the information requested in the application help differentiate between qualified and less qualified candidates?
- Will these questions get me the information I need?
- Is this information job relevant?
If you answer “No” to any one of the three questions above, rethink your application. These questions focus on the main purpose of an application.
There are lots of great applications out there. Decide what you like and make it your own, that is, customized for your target position. Make sure to check for legality. Remember, the applicant, who could be a top talent, is looking for a good fit as well, make sure you impress them on your “first date”.
Author Bio: Trevor McGlochlin is a Research Analyst at Select International. He earned a Master of Science degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology. His areas of expertise include selection, employee turnover, organizational development, applied research, and statistical analyses. His analysis work is centered around validation, adverse impact, turnover analyses, assessment scoring, and other data analysis.