Employment Application Design: Dos and Don’ts

April 26, 2016  |   Legal Compliance
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applicationAn organization’s employment application can sometimes help or hinder the hiring process. Well-meaning questions can come off as discriminatory.  Weakly designed applications won’t give you the proper amount of information to make an effective decision on whether or not to interview a candidate. In this issue of Astronology®, we discuss the factors surrounding employment application design.

A major concern most organizations will have when designing their employment applications is ensuring they are not violating any laws.  What type of questions should employers avoid? An innocent mistake such as including a date of birth or date of high school graduation section could spell trouble, for instance. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees ages 40 and over.  As a result, requesting a date of birth or graduation can make it appear that a candidate could be rejected due to his / her age.  An exception in this circumstance may be if the applicant is under the age of 18. Some other laws to consider when selecting the type of questions to include on your organization’s employment application are the following:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines: Encompasses questions involving identifying an applicant’s age, race, national origin, sex, physical characteristics, religion, and other related personal information such as arrests and convictions.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Encompasses questions involving an applicant’s health history and / or handicaps (if any exist).
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act: Encompasses questions involving an applicant’s citizenship. Remember, the Form I-9 will assist in balancing an employer’s compliance in establishing a worker’s eligibility to accept employment in the United States.
  • State Violations: Certain states have strict laws pertaining to employer rights to information about an applicant’s past salary history, credit, sexual orientation, and even access to transportation. Make sure you are aware of your state’s laws.

By avoiding the personal questions, how do we get to know the applicant? While organizations are looking for the best fit, the core questions / sections to include are

  • Contact information
  • Position the applicant is seeking
  • Hours of availability
  • Expected salary
  • Past experience
  • Education
  • Additional detailed information such as an applicant’s experience with a specific tool, software, or equipment, willingness to travel, willingness to perform specific tasks, and even examples of when the applicant worked with a team (if related to position)
  • Closing statements

In particular, the closing statements can include information to help organizations avoid finding themselves involved in lawsuits without being given notice. Such statements mentioned in an INC.com online article are the following:

  • Statements related to equal employment opportunities practices
  • Consequences for including information not requested on the application
  • Instructions for disabled applicants to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Notices regarding the length of time the information will be kept on file
  • Requests that applicants certify the accuracy of the information

As the Astron Solutions team is not legal professionals, consulting with employment law professionals is extremely advisable, to ensure no possible legal violations are incurred through your organization’s employment application. Are there any special questions your organization uses on your employment application? Share with Astronology®!

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