Best Practices - The formula for the best application form

Often, a great job description and application form will be the first interaction a candidate has with your company. The perfect application form will get you the information you need in a format that is searchable all without putting too much work onto the candidate.  

How do you achieve this magical middle ground? Read on to learn!

In This Article

Long enough, but not too long

An application form should be long enough to allow the person who is screening the candidates to quickly determine if the candidate is a fit for moving forward, but not so long that it takes the candidate forever to fill it in - as long, complicated application forms, or, application processes that require a login, will typically only frustrate your best candidates, and cause more work for your team - reading through the long answers. 

To combat this length issue, use the following formula:

1 - Key identification information - Your application form should always ask details such as:name, email, and phone

2 - Job critical items - This includes any critical items for hiring in this role/industry, such as: certifications, drivers licenses, location, etc. This doesn't have to be an exhaustive list -  only items that will be a "go/no go" for moving forward.

3 - A resume -  ONLY if you're going to actually look at it. A resume is a really great way to see a summary of a candidate's work and education history - but make sure that you're only asking for this document if you will plan to read it. Especially for entry level roles, where work experience may be limited, a paragraph box asking for a summary of experience may be a great substitute. 

4 -  Special Pro Tip! 1 - 2 interest or thought provoking questions - These questions are quick - but do require someone to be actually paying attention while answering your application questions. This will help you weed out a large majority of candidates - as you'll be able to quickly see the people who took the time to write 1 - 2 well crafted sentences to answer your questions, and the ones who did not. Examples: What made you want to click apply for this role? or What interests you about X industry/role? or What is your favorite thing about X industry/role? You may want to mark these questions as "not required" to see who actually fills them out, too.

Following this formula, below is a great example of an application form: 

But what about all the other questions I want to ask? 

Once you've paired down your application form you may be left with some extra questions that you'd like to ask before you hire someone - but that you don't necessarily need to ask of  all of your candidates. 

The first thing to challenge yourself with is determine  how you're using each of those pieces of information. If you can't identify a "why" for any of them, then you shouldn't be asking the candidates to fill them out.

Once you know what other questions you need to ask, this is where Followup Questionnaires are a great option. These allow you to send additional questions to candidates after they've applied to your roles - and the answers are stored on their application forms.

Examples of questions to send in a followup questionnaire:

  • Additional information about certifications or other job requirements
  • Essay or long-answer questions to learn about experience or knowledge about certain topics
  • Culture or workplace specific questions to gauge role and cultural add

Questionnaires are a great way to gauge the interest an applicant has in a position, too. For example - you can include a questionnaire on your automated response message when a candidate applies - and ask them to complete these additional questions in order to move forward in the hiring process. Then only move forward with those who take the time to fill out the additional questions. 

Pro tip: Followup questionnaires are also a great way to send candidates homework assignments throughout the hiring process! 

Smart application forms make searching easier

Once candidates have applied, being able to find their application forms - initially or later - is critical. Being smart with how you build out your application form will help you be able to search for them easier as well. 

Use as many drop down or multiple choice question types as possible

Dropdown or multiple choice answer types make filtering and searching  so much easier

Here is a great example. Let's say that my role requires a drivers license. I could ask this question on my application form using a short text box for the answer. I may get answers like "Nope" as well as "no" and "yes!!" as well as "Yeah" - making the search for all of my "Nos" (to reject them!) nearly impossible. 

Instead, if I use a "yes / no" option, which forces the candidate to pick one or the other, I can  easily search for this answer in the future. 

These questions don't have to be limited to Yes/No. Another favorite is "What days of the week can you work - check all that apply" - then, when you're needing to hire someone for "Mondays" - you can easily find these candidates quickly. 

Be sensitive to local regulations

Keep in mind that application forms (especially in a global hiring environment) need to be sensitive to the rules, regulations and norms of both the country your company is located in, and also where your candidates are applying from.

For some countries, it is very normal to ask for a photo of the candidate as a part of the application process, and other places this would be frowned upon, or even illegal. The same goes for asking for salary information, as well as gender, disability and other accommodation information.  Need to ask EEOC questions? Use the EEOC questionnaire, instead of the application form.

If you do need to ask about sensitive information such as salary, consider making these answers  private - so they're only visible to certain users of your account. 

Stay in tune with the regulations surrounding the industry, location and culture of your company + candidate pool. 

Remember - be clear

Make sure that each of the questions on your application form is super clear as to what you need from the candidate. For example, if you're asking them to pick multiple items, call this out in the question itself. If you'd like a resume in a particular format, or - to include certain items - include this in the question, so the candidate is clear as to what they should do on your form. Keep in mind - they are "interviewing" you, just as much as you are, them.

After you make your awesome application form, test it yourself - and then have a coworker who  didn't create it test it too - does everything make sense? Is it easy to fill out? Does your automated response work the way you'd like? If so - that's great - you're well on your way to a stellar candidate pool!

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