One of the most important tools in evaluating and screening applicants for employment is a written application for employment. Employers should never accept a resume in lieu of a completed application for employment.

Regardless of whether the application form is an old-fashioned pen-and-paper type or an online version, it should contain certain basic inquiries. Of course, it should also be tailored to the employer, jobs available, industry and applicable jurisdiction. The days of using an office supply form are long gone.

This article outlines some of the basic statements and inquiries that should appear on every application and could serve as a helpful checklist for reviewing your own application form.

Applicant’s Statement

We recommend that you place the boilerplate legal statements at the beginning of the application. Among other things, this section should include statements concerning:

  • The employer’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy (the employer does not discriminate on the basis of any legally protected characteristic under any applicable federal, state and local law);
  • The applicant’s agreement for the employer to check with the applicant’s former and present employers, and professional, work, and personal references;
  • The applicant’s agreement that, after the applicant’s employment with the employer may end, the employer may provide references to prospective employers;
  • The applicant’s agreement for the employer to conduct drug and alcohol tests as a condition of initial and continued employment to the maximum extent permitted by applicable laws;
  • The applicant’s agreement that the employer may obtain information concerning any drug and alcohol tests and a release of liability with respect to such tests;
  • The applicant’s agreement that the application and other employer documents are not promises of employment;
  • The applicant’s understanding that employment with the employer is subject to an introductory or trial period;
  • The applicant’s agreement that employment with the employer is at-will and that no employer representative has any authority to enter into any agreement for employment for any specified period of time or to make any agreement contrary to the foregoing, except that a designated person may do so in writing;
  • The applicant’s agreement to comply with all of the employer’s rules and regulations, if hired;
  • The applicant’s certification that all of the information provided on the application and in the interview process is and will be true and complete in all respects, and if the information is found to be false, misleading, or unsatisfactory in any respect (in the employer’s judgment), the applicant will be disqualified from consideration for employment or subject to immediate termination if discovered after the applicant is hired;
  • The applicant’s certification of receipt of a separate Fair Credit Reporting Act Disclosure and Authorization form; and
  • The applicant’s understanding that the application will only be considered active for a set period (usually 30 days).

Personal Data

The application should obtain basic information about the applicant, such as full name, prior names, street and mailing addresses, length of time at each address, reason for moving, previous address, phone numbers, email address(es), confirmation that the applicant is over 18 and other information that may be applicable. The application should not inquire about the applicant’s date of birth or Social Security number.

Current and Previous Employment

The applicant should be asked to list the names of present and previous employers in chronological order with present or most recent employer listed first. Information about former employers should include the employer’s name; address; phone number; email; dates of employment, position(s) held; name, position and contact information for last supervisor, and other relevant information.

The applicant should be asked to include part-time, seasonal, military service and all other employment. If self-employed, the applicant should give company name and supply business references.

The applicant should be told clearly not to say “see resume” and to answer all inquiries on the application completely.

Other Background Information

The application should obtain other information, including but not limited to:

  • Position desired;
  • Minimum acceptable pay rate (be aware that some states limit pre-hire questions about salary history);
  • Desired schedule (full-time, part-time, temporary, etc.);
  • First date available for work;
  • Are they currently working and, if so, name of employee;
  • How many days of scheduled work did applicant miss in the last 24 months, not including vacations, holidays and other approved leave;
  • Full explanation of any gaps in applicant’s employment history, accounting for all periods of time including military service and any period of unemployment;
  • If hired, can applicant provide proof that he or she is legally entitled to work in the U.S. and, if not, what steps must be taken for applicant to begin employment lawfully?
  • Has applicant ever been terminated or asked to resign from any job and, if yes, an explanation of the circumstances;
  • Can prospective employer contact applicant’s current employer and, if no, why not;
  • Has applicant ever worked for prospective employer or for a related entity and, if so, provide dates, position and location;
  • Does applicant have any friends or relatives working for prospective employer or a related entity and, if so, provide name(s), relationship and location;
  • How was applicant referred to prospective employer;
  • ·Does applicant have any commitments which could affect his or her employment with prospective employer if hired (for example, an employment agreement, a non-competition or non-solicitation agreement, etc.; and
  • Is there anything that may affect applicant’s ability to be employed for an extended period and, if so, explain.

This section may include additional inquires may be added to tailor the application to the jobs available, employer or industry.

Relevant Educational Background

Most applications include inquiries about the applicant’s educational background, such as years completed (but not dates of attendance and/or graduation), school names, address, course or major of study, specialized certifications, professional or occupational registration, licensure or certification, internships or externships, experience, skills, training, curricula, or extracurricular activities, as applicable.

Criminal History

Some form of criminal background inquiries will be needed for most positions. However, the background check should be individualized, job-related and compliant with applicable laws.

Employers should not inquire about arrests, convictions that were sealed, eradicated, erased, annulled or expunged, or convictions that resulted in referral to a diversion program or for pleas or convictions for which a court granted First Time Offender status.

Although you must check applicable state and local laws, the typical application asks two primary questions:

  • Have you ever plead no contest, nolo contendere, or guilty to a misdemeanor crime, or been convicted of a misdemeanor crime?
  • Have you ever plead no contest, nolo contendere, or guilty to a felony crime, or been convicted of a felony crime?

The application should also prominently include the following statement:

“Answering ‘yes’ to either of these questions does not constitute an automatic bar to employment. The Company will consider the nature of the crime, its seriousness, the substantial relation to the position’s functions and qualifications, the number of occurrences, the applicant’s age at the time of the crime, the time elapsed since the crime, the applicant’s entire work and educational history, employment references and recommendations, and the business necessity of any exclusion when required by law.”

Driving Information

If driving is an essential function of the job for which the applicant is applying, the application needs to contain a number of inquiries relevant to the applicant’s driving records.

For DOT drivers, special inquiries are mandated by applicable rules and regulations.

Signature and Retention

The applicant should sign and date the application and the employer should retain it in an appropriate file.


The application for employment is an essential tool for employers to use in the screening and selection process. Making sure that the application asks the appropriate and legally-compliant questions is essential for success and to avoid legal liability.