Use these application form questions in your application process to separate the wheat from the chaff and find promising candidates for an interview.
Why you should include questions in your application form
Questions in application forms help you to better filter applications and receive more complete candidate profiles. Use them to:
- shortlist candidates based on their skills and experience;
- identify “knockout” criteria so that only candidates who fit the job specification can qualify;
- find the really suitable candidates who bring both skills and experience.
To tailor the application form to your requirements, you can also look at questions for entry-level or leadership roles to find candidates whose skills fit the vacancy to be filled.
The questions below are in yes/no, multiple choice, and free text format, supplemented by questions intended to encourage candidates to upload documents.
Sample application form questions
Conditions of employment
- Are you interested in a full- or part-time position?
- What days and times are you available to work? Alternatively, are you available from X to Y? (e.g. 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays)
- What would be your earliest start date with us?
- If you are currently in employment, how long is your notice period?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Would you be happy to spend X percent of your working time traveling?
- Would you also be able to work abroad? Or could you see yourself relocating?
- Would you be prepared to take a drugs test as part of this application process?
- Would you be prepared to undergo a background check as part of this application process?
Candidates’ skills and qualifications
- Have you any experience in using software X for purpose Y?
- List all the software you have already used that is relevant to this position.
- Are you able to communicate in language XY at native-speaker level (both written and spoken)?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license?
- Provide details of two or three relevant projects you have worked on.
- Please upload an example of your achievements (e.g. link to an article etc.).
- Why did you apply for this position?
- Why do you want to work at our company?
- How does this position fit in with your long-term objectives?
- How did you find out about this vacancy?
- Please provide the names and contact details of three references.
Short tests to assess specific skills
Questions in the application form can also allow you to ask job-specific questions relating to your vacancies. If, for example, you are looking for:
- an editor, ask candidates to edit a short text;
- an engineer, ask candidates to debug a short section of code;
- a translator, ask candidates to translate a paragraph.
Bear in mind that these tests can never give you a full picture of a candidate’s skills. For instance, candidates can do research online in advance or ask someone for help. You should therefore combine these mini-tests with other questions, especially later on in the application process. (See also the competency-based interview questions in this regard.)
Tips for getting the most out of an application form
- Use the answers you get to ask more specific questions later on in the process. Application form questions are a good starting point for phone or face-to-face interviews. For instance, you can ask candidates to describe their past projects or future goals in more detail.
- Decide what answers will mean immediate rejection and which are negotiable. For example, you could immediately discount candidates without a valid driver’s license if it’s important for the role.
- Focus on the important things. For instance, only ask for a particular certificate if it’s an essential requirement of the position.
- Applicants lack key skills. Even though you should train up new staff, most positions have certain fundamental criteria that a candidate has to meet in order to even be considered. If they don’t, they should be rejected.
- Applicants’ salary expectations are much higher than what you can offer. Although you might succeed in negotiating with candidates about their salary, it makes sense to discount candidates with excessively high expectations from the rest of the process.
- Applicants are inflexible in terms of what hours they can work. Shift work is standard practice in many areas (e.g. sales). These employees have to expect to be required to work on weekends or on public holidays as well. If candidates are already making it clear on the form that they are fairly inflexible, they may not be very suitable for these roles.
- Applicants don’t answer all the questions. Candidates who leave boxes blank might be less interested in the job or lack the necessary skills. You should therefore ask yourself whether you want to reject these candidates straight away or would rather give them another chance to answer.
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