Employment Applications: What to Include and What to Avoid



Although resumes are a valuable addition to the hiring process, it is advised that employers still use employment applications because they can provide legal and practical advantages. Some companies even reject resumes and require all job candidates to complete the company’s application. 

Why an employment application?

The primary purpose of an employment application is to ask the right questions. Those are the questions that lead to the candidate that best fits your organization or has the greatest chance of success in the current open position; that means learning specifically what skills, training, experience, achievements and behaviors make that person the best candidate for the job.

The employment application is often the first contact a job seeker has with your organization. It is the beginning of the employment relationship. The information you request from a job applicant is different than the information you will request from hired employees.

Disclaimers

It is best practice for a company to include certain disclaimers and authorizations in the application form. To avoid a wrongful discharge legal suit, include an “employment at will” statement, along with a place for applicants to sign off on their acknowledgement of this statement. 

There are no federal or state laws that require a company to include an equal employment opportunity statement on their employment application, however including this statement confirms for the applicant that the company adheres to these employment practices.

Guidelines

An application should always include a section for an applicant's signature to attest that he or she has read and understands certain policies and procedures of the employer that are spelled out on the employment application. These frequently include the fact that the employer is an at-will employer, that the employer is an equal opportunity non-discriminating employer, and any other facts that the employer wants the applicant to read and understand on the employment application.

What to avoid

The application should avoid questions that may reveal that an applicant is a member of a protected class. This includes questions about religion, age, race, disabilities, medical history, gender, marital status, and national origin, etc.  Although many equal opportunity laws do not directly prohibit employers from asking such questions on an application, these kinds of questions may be used as evidence of an employer’s intent to discriminate, unless the questions asked can be justified by some business purpose.

Background Checks

Information needed to conduct background checks should be obtained on a separate form authoring the employer to conduct a check.

Some common questions to avoid are:

  • Protected Characteristics: Federal and Ohio employers are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, military status or any other characteristic protected by law. Although outside the definition of protected class of “sex” the EEOC now includes gender identity and sexual orientation within that classification. 
  • Date of Birth: If there is a state imposed minimum age for certain positions, it can be asked if the candidates meet the minimum age requirement , but avoid asking for date of birth. In addition to the date of birth, stay away from questions about specific graduation dates.  If educational background is important, ask for the name of the educational institution and the degree or credentials, but no dates.
  • Marital status: Discrimination based on marital status is prohibited in many states. Wait until an individual is hired to gather information on benefits and employment forms.
  • Emergency Contact: This information is only relevant once a candidate has been extended an offer of employment, and should not be requested on the initial job application. This type of inquiry may elicit information about familial status, marital status, a domestic partnership, or other associations unrelated to the applicants qualifications. 
  • Citizenship: Employers should not inquire on an application about an applicant's country of origin, but can ask if the applicant is authorized to work in the United States. 
  • Medical Information: Avoid asking questions related to a disability, amount of sick leave taken, or workers compensation history. Both FMLA and ADA prohibit discrimination and retaliation against applicants who have exercised those rights. An employer may inquire about these areas after it has offered the applicant employment if it makes the same inquiries of all applicants.
  • Criminal History:  Enforcement guidelines issued by the EEOC recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications. Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking about criminal history. But, federal EEO laws do prohibit employers from discriminating when they use criminal history information.

Using criminal history information to make employment decisions may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII). The fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he/she engaged in criminal conduct. Therefore, an individual's arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to take a negative employment action.

Many states and cities are enforcing “Ban the Box” laws which prohibit employers from asking about or considering an applicant’s criminal background until the later stages of the application process, such as the first interview or after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

By using an application, an employer can avoid a number of potential problems in the hiring process and promote a selection process that is fair to everyone. 

HR, compliance, termination, or compensation questions?

ERC has a team of HR Help Desk Advisors to provide timely and trusted answers.

Contact the Help Desk

Ohio Training Grant Update

ERC continues to work closely with the Ohio Development Services Agency (formerly Ohio Dept. of Development) to get the latest news regarding the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program.

Since the announcement of the grant on 12/21/12 by Gov. Kasich, the Agency has received applications that have expended the $20 million budgeted for the state’s current fiscal year (July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013). However, within the last week, we received this advice from the Agency:

 “We are still encouraging folks to complete the application. As we begin reviewing applications, there may be ineligible costs that will become available to those that might be in our queue.”

As always, we are here to answer your questions and to help with the application process. For more information contact Pete Bednar at 440-947-1293 or pbednar@yourERC.com.

ERC partners with Aztek to provide members web marketing solutions

NORTHEAST OHIO – ERC has partnered with Aztek (www.aztekweb.com), one of Northeast Ohio’s oldest and most prominent web services firms, to offer its members discounted pricing on Aztek’s web services. ERC members will receive a preferred rate on the following services:

  • Website design and development
  • Web application design and development
  • Mobile application design and development
  • Web Marketing (Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media)
  • Hosting

Aztek’s time-tested methodology (Aztek’s Process) for developing sophisticated business solutions is a guarantee to fit your business model. From manufacturing to nonprofit, from extreme sports to conservative law firms, Aztek has worked with over 550 clients, hosts several thousand websites and has the flexibility, as well as the experience, to customize a solution to fit your business needs. 

“We’re very excited to partner with Aztek and offer this savings to our membership,” said Pat Perry, President of ERC. “Their experience and array of web services make for a great fit with our organization.” 

“We are very pleased to become a new Preferred Partner with ERC. It will be a true compliment to the other Preferred Partner opportunities available to ERC members,” said Kevin Latchford, Aztek’s COO.

ERC is one of Ohio's leading organizations dedicated to HR, workplace programs and practices, training, health insurance and consulting. ERC membership provides employers access to HR information, expertise and cost savings that supports the attraction, retention, and development of great employees. We also host the nationally recognized NorthCoast 99 program and sponsor the ERC Health insurance program.

The 2011 NorthCoast 99 Application is Now Available

In its 13th year of honoring 99 of the best places to work in Northeast Ohio, ERC is excited to announce that the 2011 NorthCoast 99 Application is now available! Applications will be accepted from now until April 29, 2011. Applicants are encouraged to register at www.northcoast99.org/application to begin their organization’s application process.

There is still no cost to apply, and every applicant receives a free benchmark report in September which summarizes how an organization scored relative to the winners and other applicants.

The application process involves the following:

  • Top Performer Workplace Practices Audit - Our comprehensive online questionnaire that asks for detailed information about your organization's policies and practices.
  • Branding and Culture Submission - Applicants submit materials such as employee handbooks, sample job ads and materials shared with job candidates. 
  • Top Performer Engagement Survey - You select a group of top performers within your organization to complete an online survey that measures their engagement with your organization. 
  • New-Hire Assessment - You select three employees hired by your organization in 2010 and employed in Northeast Ohio to complete a short online assessment of your organization. 
  • Special Awards - ERC will recognize select organizations for unique and innovative practices described within the application.

To be recognized as a great place to work during good economic times is certainly a great achievement; however, during tough times the ability to attract, retain, and motivate top performing employees becomes even more critical. For more reasons to apply for NorthCoast 99 this year, please visit: http://www.northcoast99.com/.

The 2011 NorthCoast 99 Award program is sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CareerBoard.com, CareerCurve, Cinecraft Productions, Inc., Cleveland.com, FirstMerit Bank, Frantz Ward, Inside Business Magazine, Oswald Companies, PS Awards, Staffing Solutions Enterprises, and WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN ideastream. In addition, NorthCoast 99 is endorsed by the Cleveland Society of Human Resource Management (CSHRM), the Northeast Ohio Human Resource Planning Society (NOHRPS) and JumpStart Inc.

For more information please visit www.northcoast99.org.

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