How to Get the Most Out of a Job Application Form [Template]

As with all our articles, this content contains general information and guidance only, and is not a substitute for legal or tax advice. For advice specific to your area or business, be sure to consult with a qualified professional.

A job application form, also known as an employment application form, is a way to get standard background information from candidates. This article explains why many businesses opt to use an employment application form instead of a resume, how to get the most out of your employee applications, standard things to include in your application, as well as other things you might choose to include. We’ll even give you a free job application form template to get you started.

Get Started with Square Payroll

Payroll processing trusted by thousands.

Learn how to formalize and grow your business. Check out the Employer Launchpad.

Why use an employee application form instead of taking resumes?

There are a number of reasons many employers prefer job application forms over resumes:

Consistent format

Job application forms provide a uniform format. This makes them easier than resumes to quickly sort through because every applicant answers the same questions with the information organized the same way. Resumes, on the other hand, are visually different so it can take longer to sift through different formats and decide if an applicant might be a good fit for the job.

Just the facts

Whereas resumes can be gussied up with colorful language intended to exaggerate or stretch the truth, employment application forms are designed to just record the facts about past employment, education, etc.

Verify accuracy

Most employee applications require the candidate’s signature, verifying everything they’ve written is true. Employers can then verify employment history and other information on the form.

Contact information for references

Current and past managers can tell you valuable information about a candidate’s work ethic, as well as verify the accuracy of their work history. Employee applications often ask for references, whereas resumes usually don’t include this information.

It’s worth noting that candidates may not be comfortable with your calling their current employer if their job search isn’t public knowledge. This is understandable and their wishes absolutely need to be respected. (Unfortunately, people sometimes get fired for job hunting.) Be sure to obtain written authorization from the candidate before contacting any of their references or disclosing the fact that the candidate has applied for a job.


10 ways to get the most out of your employee application forms.

Here are 10 tips for how to use job application forms as an effective tool to hire the best candidate:

  1. Make your employee applications readily available. Put paper copies by the register, on the front desk, or near the front door. If you’re posting your job opening online, let candidates do everything electronically — download the employment application form, submit by email, etc.

  2. Acknowledge each application with an email, thanking the candidate for applying. This lets them know you’ve received their application, which is a nice courtesy and good PR for your business.

  3. Compare each job application form against your job description to see which candidates have the right background and skills for the position.

  4. Compare favorites side by side.

  5. Once you’ve got a shortlist of the strongest applicants, schedule initial phone screenings or phone interviews.

  6. Invite the strongest candidates from the phone interviews for an in-person interview. Here are some interview questions you should always ask.

  7. Call any of the candidates’ references whom you have permission to contact.

  8. After you’ve offered the job to the best candidate and they’ve accepted your offer, email all other applicants to thank them for their interest and let them know you’ve gone with a different candidate.

  9. Keep job application forms on file in case there’s another opening in the future.

  10. Be mindful that hiring decisions are subject to antidiscrimination requirements under federal, state, and municipal laws. Employers should evaluate applicants on the basis of legitimate, job-related qualifications only. Resources on this subject can be found on the EEOC’s website and those of other government agencies. Employers should consult with a qualified professional for questions about how these rules apply to their business.

Things to include in your employee applications.

Employment application forms typically ask for the following information:

  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • Email address
  • Phone number(s)
  • What position they’re applying for
  • Available start date
  • Educational background with names of schools, degrees earned, majors/subjects of study, dates of study
  • Employment history with names of companies, job titles, duties, dates of employment*
  • Contact information for professional/personal references
  • Place for applicant’s signature certifying that everything is accurate

Employee applications might also ask additional questions such as:

  • Days/shifts available for work
  • Desired pay range
  • Free answer to “Why do you want to work here?”
  • Consent to taking a drug test (if relevant).**
  • Criminal history (“Have you committed a felony?”)**

Now that you know the benefit of employment application forms and how to use them, you can use our free job application form template to help find the right candidate for your business.

*Some cities and states restrict an employer’s ability to ask about or use a candidate’s past compensation to determine their pay. Employers should check local requirements or consult with a qualified professional before asking about a candidate’s earning history.

**Special rules apply to these inquiries, which are prohibited or limited in some regions. Employers should check local requirements or consult with a qualified professional.