Your employment application is obviously an important screening tool in your hiring process, and you should take the time to review it to ensure it complies with any applicable laws, collects the information you need, and provides information applicants need to know when completing the application.

Some application questions can run afoul of federal employment discrimination laws. For example, the EEOC believes it is inappropriate for employers to require applicants to disclose the date they graduated from high school because the answer usually discloses the applicants’ ages. There also are questions that may reveal whether the applicant is disabled, which is unlawful to ask at the application stage, as explained in the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on pre-employment disability-related questions. Finally, state laws may limit what you can ask on an application. For example, several states, including Wisconsin and California, place limitations and prohibitions on questions asking about an applicant’s criminal record.

As for getting the information you need from the application and providing information to applicants, you should have your application reviewed to determine whether there are any items missing from the application that would be helpful to include:

  • Does the application expressly require applicants to state whether they graduated from each educational institution they list on their application (as opposed to just asking how many years attended)?
  • Does the application require applicants to list all involuntary terminations and the reasons for any such terminations?
  • Does the application require applicants to represent that they have fully and accurately answered all question on the application and tell them that an omission or misrepresentation on the application is a basis for not hiring them (and a basis for termination if the applicant has already been hired)?
  • Does the application tell applicants how long applications will be active?
  • Does the application tell applicants that if they are hired their employment is at will?  

Having the right questions and information on your employment application can prevent claims, help you get the information you need, and provide information that you want your applicants to know.