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 searchable format without putting too much work into 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 for details such as name, email, and phone

2 - Job critical items - This includes any necessary items for hiring in this role/industry, such as certifications, driver's 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 look at it. A resume is a 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 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 require someone to be 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. What made you want to click apply for this role?  What interests you about X industry/role?  What is your favorite thing about X industry/role? You may want to mark these questions as "not required" to see who fills them out.

Following this formula, below is an excellent 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 to determine  how you're using each piece 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.

Follow-up questionnaires are a great option once you know what other questions you need to ask. 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 follow-up questionnaire:

  • Additional information about certifications or other job requirements
  • An 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 an applicant's interest in a position. For example - you can include a questionnaire on your automated response message when a candidate applies - and ask them to complete these additional questions 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! 

Brilliant application forms make searching easier.

Once candidates have applied, finding their application forms - initially or later - is critical. Being smart with building out your application form will help you search for them more accessible. 

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 driver's 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" - searching for all of my "Nos" (to reject them!) is 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 need to hire someone for "Mondays," - you can easily find these candidates quickly. 

Be sensitive to local regulations.

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

For some countries, it is very typical to ask for a photo of the candidate as a part of the application process, and in other places, this would be frowned upon or even illegal. The same goes for asking for salary information and 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 tuned to the regulations surrounding your company's industry, location, and culture + candidate pool. 

Remember - be clear

Make sure that each of the questions on your application form is super clear about 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 include specific items, include this in the question, so the candidate is clear about what they should do on your form. They are "interviewing" you just as much as you are them.

After you make your incredible 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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