Ensure applying to your business is easy
After a job advertisement, an application form is likely to be a candidate’s first experience of interacting with your business.
As such, a good application form is a vital way of forming a positive first impression of your company.
The application form can have surprisingly wide reach, with even entry-level positions currently generating considerable demand: one paralegal position from July 2020 received over 4000 applicants.
Some application processes are likely to become increasingly mechanised and streamlined in the coming years.
But most SMEs will want to stick with tried-and-tested methods—either by sticking with the 70% of companies who ask for CVs to assess candidates, or using a good old-fashioned application form.
For anyone falling in the last group, this article will cover some of the basic considerations you need to make when designing your company’s application form.
Only ask for what you need to know
There’s no better way to annoy candidates by asking them to input information that seems unrelated to the work you want them to do. In reality, the information you need from a candidate is relatively limited.
Will you make a decision about recruitment based on the secondary school your candidates went to, or exact the result of their English GCSE? If not, make yourself clear, and help your candidates to save time.
You’ll need to know about their contact information, eligibility to work in the country, their highest educational attainment, and work experience. If you are looking for specific skills, ask clearly for that information with focussed questions.
Cover letters or personal statements with well-defined criteria are also a reliable way to help your candidates present themselves to you.
Encourage accuracy with a signature
It’s easy to forget, but a signature should be a staple feature of any application form. In the UK, more than 80% of employers have encountered candidates bending the truth on their applications. A signature can help confirm the accuracy of your candidate’s declarations.
Common application lies tend to be quite minor—such as over-stating grades—but the signature space reminds everyone that honesty is expected. And technically, a successful candidate can be dismissed from their job after submitting a fraudulent application.
Even if you don’t have the capacity to rigorously check every applicant, a signature provides an honour system that you can hope applicants abide by.
Be aware of workplace discrimination
There are also some topics that you should make sure you avoid on any application form.
In the recruitment process, you should not invite questions about ‘protected characteristics’, including age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage, pregnancy, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.
In reality, it is difficult for job applicants to legally challenge unfair treatment at the application stage. Nonetheless, taking a proactive stance for fair treatment of everyone will only be positive for your company’s reputation.
You may consider taking matters a step further: for example, by not asking for titles (Mr, Miss, Mrs), or even finding a way to obscure candidates’ names when the forms are passed to decision-makers.
Iron out technical problems before you start
Software that supports your recruiting process is not just for huge companies. As your business grows, you may find that a platform for applications saves you considerable time.
Keep in mind that as many as 56% of job candidates have experienced technical problems when applying for a job. The best software can struggle with the unpredictable needs of candidates—so ensure that your forms provide a seamless experience for applicants.
Even if you’re keeping things simple by sending out forms using a word processor or online form, make sure you thoroughly proof-read it first. Bad formatting can turn the candidate’s experience into a nightmare.
It’s ok to use a template
If you’re a smaller business with relatively low rate of recruitment, it can be difficult to find the people-hours to scrutinise and develop an in-house application form from scratch.
This is a place where the wonderful world of online resources can help you out. There are plenty of good templates online, both for free and paid. As long as you’re sure it’s legally appropriate for the UK, you can make changes to suit your position.
A carefully planned form is a good use of time
Unlike many routine procedures in human resources, you probably won’t get much feedback on your application forms.
Successful applicants will forget their application once they are through the door. And while you won’t hear much from unsuccessful applicants, they are very likely to remember the best and worst of their application experiences.
By taking your time to create a top-notch application form, you’re taking one more step to secure your company as an employer of choice. Pay attention to this process and look forward to the reputational gains!