What to avoid and what to include on employment applications
Employment applications are the best opportunity for companies to study a candidate's work and educational background prior to making a hiring decision. To ensure compliance with hiring laws and the identification of qualified workers, businesses should be brushing up on what information to include and what to leave out of their application packages.
What to avoid
Employers must avoid any questions that directly or indirectly reveal what are considered protected characteristics under the law. These include age, race, sex, citizenship or disability. Some states and jurisdictions protect workers based on additional characteristics, meaning employers should review local laws to guarantee total compliance.
Several states expressly prohibit companies from asking about criminal convictions on employment applications. A California law states that a candidate's criminal background is only permissible after an organization makes a conditional work offer. Once an offer is made, the employer cannot deny an applicant work based on conviction history until an individual criminal history assessment is performed.
Federal law does not disallow employers from asking potential hires for a social security number on an application, but there are a number of regulations governing the use, access to and storage of personal information. Most states carry specific data privacy and security laws, while limits on business use and disclosure of SSNs have been enacted throughout the country.
What to include
Generally, applications are comprised of job-related components. For instance, employers should have a space for applicants to list their availability, whether part-time or full-time. Job history is another common ask, and includes previous positions held, length of employment at each job, salary history, and reasons for leaving a job.
A section dedicated to education and professional designations is reserved for degrees earned as well as any licenses or certification held by the applicant. An additional section of the application should be reserved for employee references.
Finally, it is recommended that every job application include a statement that the company is an equal opportunity employer. Known as an EEO statement, this language reminds applicants that a company's recruiting and hiring practices are based solely on job-related criteria and do not discriminate on the basis of any federal, state, or locally protected class.
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