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Application forms


Disciplines > Human Resources > Selection > Application forms

Description | Development | Discussion | See also



An application form is a structured form developed by the company offering the job, which the candidate completes. This may be in addition to a résumé, or as a replacement. Résumés may, when application forms are required, be 'optional'.

Supplemental application forms

A supplemental application form does not replace a résumé. It seeks additional information in specific areas that are shaped by the key criteria you are seeking. For example, you might ask about experience of working in teams, or even ask them to write a short piece about their views of the dynamics of your marketplace.

Replacement application forms

A form that replaces a résumé must gather all information that is required, including contact information, job history, personal statements and education, as well as any specialized job-related information you require.


Development of a supplemental application form starts with a good job analysis, from which key criteria which are to be sought are extracted and parts of the form designed whereby data may be reliably gathered.

Design of the form should be to include clear instructions such that the candidate is in no doubt about what is required in each field. This may include check boxes of various forms for basic facts (e.g. male/female or a checklist for computer application skills), single-line fields for short items such as their name, and larger boxes for free-format descriptions, such as descriptions of their responsibilities in various jobs.

If the form is to be on paper, then standard graphic design principles should be used, such as clear use of space, fitting coherent sets of information on a single side of paper, etc. If the form is for use on the web, then web design principles should be used, such as coping with resizing of windows, clear 'submit' button, etc.


Application forms are very popular, being used by 93% of UK firms (Shackleton and Newell, 1991), and have found increasing popularity with the web (Park, 1999 and Reed, 2002), where online completion of forms eases data capture and ensures standardization.

The application form is the recruiter's rebuttal to the résumé, providing them with an initial selection tool that can be used to create a short-list based on what is required by the job rather than what the applicant chooses to tell.

Application forms are finite, and long forms are likely to put off some candidates (although this may be of benefit to put off the casual applicant).

Application forms used a great deal on the web and facilitate automated filtering, where a job may have many applicants and individual sections may be scanned for specific key words (such as qualifications or experience).

Application forms, like CVs, are self-reports and hence may are open to impression management and other forms of faking, and hence ‘factual’ information should be treated with care.

A sharp candidate will take good note of the application form, as it often hints at (or even shouts about) the key criteria that the recruiting company is seeking.

Design of Application Forms must take care about legal constraints. If there is any legal challenge to the application process, the motivation for any item in the application form could be challenged. Both the language and content of application forms thus needs to be carefully screened for bias and sensitivity. For example if ethnic background is being questioned, then there must be a legitimate reason for this (and the wording must also be ‘politically correct’).

See also

Résumé / Curriculum Vitae

Shackleton, V. and Newell, S. (1991). ‘Management selection: A comparative study survey of methods used in top British and French companies’, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, vol.64, pp.23-36

Park’s Guide (1999). Graduates in the eyes of employers, London, Park HR and The Guardian

Reed Executive PLC (25 March 2002) Paper Prejudice hits Job Seekers

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