While the technical term is “application for employment,” these applications are more commonly called job applications or employment applications. If you are an adult in this country, you have most likely filled out some type of job application in your search for employment. Employment applications feature different questions and requirements, such as cover letters or a list of special skills, but at their base, employment applications ask a few basic, job-related questions to the employer can get a sense of how the potential employee fits into the business.
Common questions on applications for employment include:
- Which position are you applying for?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- How many hours are you available each week, and could you work overtime?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license?
- Why did you leave your last position?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
How to Use an Application for Employment
Applications for employment are used by employers to vet potential employees by listing their education, skills, relevant experience, and any past history that might impact their job performance. For “white collar” work, an employment application might include a cover letter and resume formatted by the applicant, although the employer may later ask the applicant to also fill out a formatted application for employment. In other cases, potential employees may walk into an establishment and ask for an application for employment – this is especially true for part-time jobs at storefronts or restaurants. And, as we become an increasingly internet-driven culture, many job applications can be found online and submitted, which allows for easy electronic filing on the employer’s part.
An important part of an application for employment involves the background check section. Employers use this section to determine criminal history, but as noted in detail below, they may not discriminate against arrested or convicted job applicants unless they lie about their conviction history.
The employer uses an application for employment to sort through an applicant’s qualifications and decide to interview the applicant or hire them right away. Different states have different rules regarding hiring practices, but at the federal level, employers are not allowed to discriminate against potential employees by asking certain questions – and if a job applicant sees these specific questions on the application, they are not required to answer these questions unless it specifically impacts the nature of the job.
Questions to Avoid:
- Age or date of birth. Federal employment law prohibits employers from discriminating against potential employees based on age.
- Race, religion, creed, or national origin. Although a job applicant must fill out form I-9, to determine if the applicant can legally work in the United States, employers may not discriminate against employees who are from another country if they can legally work in this country. Similarly, employers may not discriminate against job applicants due to their religion, which can impact clothing choices, break times, and eating habits among other personal choices, nor can employers discriminate based on race or creed.
- Disabilities, weight/height, or other physical traits. Unless the employer hires an employee for a modeling contract or other physical performance-related position, there is no reason for an employer to specify a potential employee’s physical characteristics as long as they can perform the job. With the help of the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, there are even fewer barriers to employees with physical disabilities, and unless the job has specific requirements such as heavy lifting, an employer may not discriminate against a disabled person.
- Gender and pregnancy. An employer may not discriminate against a job applicant on the basis of gender, although this does not at the federal level include protections for LGBT persons. Individual states may have specific protections for LGBT persons, however, so employers should check their state regulations before asking specific questions on applications for employment. Additionally, pregnant job applicants may not be discriminated against.
- Arrest and/or conviction records. This is a tricky area, as many applications for employment do ask for potential conviction history. However, if a potential employee was not convicted of a crime, the person does not have to discuss the arrest or trial; and if the potential employee was convicted and served their time, employers still may not discriminate based on conviction history, unless the conviction specifically impacts job performance (for example, teaching positions).
- This is a common question on many applications for employment, but education indicates specific acquired skills related to a job, and should not be the basis of discrimination if a potential employee has acquired job-relevant skills in other ways, or the position does not require a specific level of education.