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Application forms in recruitment – top tips

Lots of people use application forms when recruiting and they can be really useful for collecting the information you need, not just the information the candidate wants you to have. It’s also useful to have details submitted in a standard format so you always know where to look for the candidate’s date of birth, for example.

Stop. Did you see anything wrong in that last sentence? If not, you may be inadvertently breaking the law when it comes to questions you can and can’t ask when recruiting. Here are my top dos and don’ts for application forms.


Ask candidates for their date of birth, marital status, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic origin. Even if you don’t use the information to help you shortlist for interview, a candidate could infer that you’ve discriminated against them and it’s up to you to prove you didn’t. Asking for this type of personal information is asking for trouble.


Ask health-related questions in the application form. There is a place and a time for asking questions about the candidate’s health but only if the questions specifically relate to the role. Leave them out of the application form all together.


Ask for references but remember to state that referees won’t be contacted without the candidate’s permission. Having someone contact your boss for a reference before you’ve told them you’re leaving is everyone’s worst nightmare.


Ask for confirmation that the candidate has proof of the right to work in the UK. You’ll also need to follow up by checking the paperwork to ensure that they’re telling the truth.


Consider using an equal opportunities monitoring form in conjunction with your application form. This is where you can ask questions about candidates’ personal details and protected characteristics (age, marital status, ethnic origin and so on) but you must ensure that the data is only used for monitoring purposes and is kept completely separate from the application form itself.


Give several different ways for the application form to be submitted, including a fax number and postal address. Emailed applications are great and often easier to deal with than paper copies but giving people options around how they can submit their application form is helpful.


Using an application form can be a great way to make sure you don’t have to wade through pages and pages of irrelevant information on CVs, deal with dodgy fonts and borders or hunt around for the key bits of information about the candidate. However, they can also trip you up if you’re not careful about what you ask and when. For more information on any of the above points or to check if your application form is up to date, give us a ring on 01487 815720.

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