Having spent hour after hour poring over your resume and polishing it until it’s word perfect, it can actually be pretty frustrating when you’re then asked to complete typical company application forms, which can be tedious and time consuming. There are, however, several good reasons why employers ask you to do so and it’s important that you know which parts of the form you must complete and which you might be able to pass over.
The first thing to understand about company application forms is that one of the main reasons for being asked to complete them is because they provide prospective employers with the opportunity to get you to sign to say that all the information you have provided is complete and accurate. A huge percentage of resumes are believed to contain omissions, exaggerations and downright lies, but of course a resume isn’t signed. By getting your signature at this early stage of the process, an employer has something which is more legally binding, if they later discover that the information you provided was inaccurate or incomplete.
A second reason why some employers, and large organizations in particular, like to get candidates to complete their own company application forms is because it provides them with the information they need in a standard format. Resumes, of course, don’t just provide essential details, but they act as marketing tools too and this, along with the varied resume formats that job seekers use can make it much more difficult for businesses to unscramble and record what they need for their employment records. In many cases, of course, applicants also choose to leave out certain details from their resumes, such as their age, gender, marital status and so on, in order to avoid unwitting or even deliberate discrimination. In many countries, however, employers are obliged to collect demographic data to provide to the authorities, and they typically use a section of their company application form to do just that.
So, of all the details that you are likely to be asked on an application form, which can you or should you leave out, and which are you strongly recommended to fill in?
Demographic Data – Although, as I have just mentioned, some businesses are required to collect this information, you, the job seeker are in no way obliged to provide it. Any demographic data that you do choose to provide is usually legally protected in terms of how employers can use it, and basically no employer is supposed to use it for discriminatory purposes. Whether they do or not, however, is something that can’t be guaranteed, and so this one really is your call.
Qualifications – The qualifications section of a company application form is one that you do need to complete, for your own sake. It is worth mentioning, however, that employers typically ask for the dates of your education which, of course, can help to give your age away. My advice would be to complete this section anyway, because without this information the employer may not be able to carry out background checks such as those to confirm the validity of a university degree. Better to run the risk of revealing your age than to be eliminated from the recruitment process because the employer can’t verify your qualifications.
Work History – Assuming that your resume is complete and provides adequate detail, you may be able to dispense with the work history section of the form and just append a copy of your resume instead. Only do this if it’s mentioned that it would be acceptable, because some employers will want the information laid out in a specific way and some may want your complete work history rather than what may be only an abridged version in your resume. In addition, whereas you may have concentrated on achievements in your resume, the application form may ask you to concentrate on tasks and responsibilities.
References – Most company application forms will ask you for the names and contact details of two or more professional or personal references. In some cases it will ask you on the form whether it’s okay to take up the references now, which you clearly wouldn’t want to happen if your current employer is one of the names that you have included. I would always advise against providing the names of referees on a resume or a company application form until you are in receipt of a firm job offer, by which time the employer will already have made a commitment to hiring you and it would take something fairly drastic to make him change his mind. Rather than just leave this section of the form blank without any explanation though, it’s probably better to explain that you will be more than happy to provide references if you are offered the job and if possible ask if this would be acceptable. If it isn’t, then really you are going to have to make a judgment call and decide whether it’s worth sacrificing a chance at the job, or at the very least irritating the employer, or whether it might be better to just provide the details anyway.