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How to Create an Employee Application, and Which Forms You Need to Have

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fizkes / Getty Images
  • Application forms collect all the necessary information from a job applicant in an organized, searchable format.
  • There are five steps you must take as an employer to begin the hiring process, which include getting the necessary forms in order and registering with state agencies.
  • Do not require answers to personal questions on your application; this can get you into legal trouble.
  • This article is for small business owners who are looking to hire employees and want to know what they must include on their application forms.

Hiring new employees often comes with a lot of paperwork, including resumes, application forms and new-hire forms. If you're a new business owner, it can be difficult to know exactly which forms are necessary when hiring new employees, and which forms you should keep on file.

When you're searching for job candidates, you'll need to write a new-hire application form. This form gives you some of the key information you'll need to decide whether the candidate is a potential fit for your company. To ensure you are moving qualified candidates through your hiring process, you need to design your application form in a way that weeds out unsuitable options.  

Filling out a new-hire application is the first step a job candidate will take to apply for a position with your company. The application form includes all the basic information you'll need about the candidate, including their name, address, contact information and education. [Looking for recruiting software to help you find new employees? Check out our recommendations for the best recruiting software.]

An application form provides a centralized, uniform way to collect necessary information about all your job applicants, which makes it easy for you to sort them to find suitable candidates for your open positions. You can also keep application forms on file for the next time you have open positions.

Additionally, a job application form provides the opportunity for job applicants to sign and attest that all the information they provided is accurate and up to date, which can protect your business against false information or fraud.

You can format and tag your application forms to be easily searchable in your document management system, which makes it quick and easy to find certain applications.

A detailed and thoughtful job application form can have several benefits:

  • It impresses candidates. Recruitment is a two-way street, and a well-thought-out job application is an important part of establishing your business's credibility and professionalism.
  • It gets the answers you're looking for. Creating your own application form, rather than using a form that asks generic questions, will ensure that you get the answers you need to find the best candidate for the job.
  • You can use automated workflows. Standardizing your job application forms enables you to automate much of the process, which can save you hours of sifting through applications. With the right management system, you can tag applications by keyword and sort them until you have a small group to go through manually.

A job application form should include spaces for an applicant's basic information as well as any answers to job-specific questions you have. Here are some of the basic things an application form should include:

  • Applicant's legal and preferred name
  • Applicant's address
  • Applicant's contact information (phone number, email, etc.)
  • Position they are applying for
  • Instructions on how to fill out the form
  • Job description
  • Education
  • Work history
  • Signature and date
  • Availability
  • Legal disclaimers

Instead of asking the applicant to fill in their work history manually on the job application, you can ask them to attach a resume. You may want to include job-specific questions on the application or require applicants to attach other documents, such as a cover letter, portfolio, writing samples or references.

Here's a sample application form:

There are several things you should not require on a job application form, for both professional and legal reasons. Because an employment application form is a professional business document, there are employment regulations that protect you as the employer and also the applicant. Note that you can include some of these questions, such as gender identification or visa status, but only if you make clear the applicant doesn't have to answer.

For instance, you cannot require an applicant to give any of this information on an application form:

  • Marital or family status
  • Citizenship or visa status
  • Religious affiliation
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identification
  • Physical information, such as height or weight
  • Medical information
  • Criminal arrests and convictions

Key takeaway: An application form collects all the necessary information from an applicant and puts it into a standardized, searchable format to help you pinpoint the most viable candidates.

There are many templates available for you to download and customize, or you can create your own application form from scratch. When you do create your form, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Keep it short. You don't want your application form to be multiple pages – this will make many applicants lose interest halfway through. Focus on the essentials, and save your in-depth questions for follow-up interviews.
  2. Go through the application yourself. The best way to test your application form is to try filling it out yourself. Pay attention to how the process feels. Is it too long? Does the format make sense and flow naturally? Is it easy to enter your information?
  3. Provide options. Applicants are coming to jobs with more varied work and education experiences than ever, so it's important that your application form provides options for them to showcase their skills. Allow them to link to their LinkedIn profile or online portfolio, or include examples of their work.
  4. Ask original questions. If you want to avoid a rote job application and give applicants the chance to stand out, ask original questions, such as their opinions on SEO or an interesting industry-related news story.
  5. Guide applicants through the process. Let applicants clearly see how many steps there are in the application form and allow them to track their progress. This helps them gauge how much time they need to devote to the process.

Key takeaway: Your application form should be short, easy to follow, and an opportunity for applicants to showcase their skills and stand out.

There are several free online templates and guides available, many of them customizable down to the fonts and additional questions. You can use these templates as inspiration for your own, or you can adjust a template to fit your needs.

Once you have hired a new employee, there are several important forms for the employee to fill out and for you, the employer, to file at the state and federal level. These forms must be submitted before the employee starts work and receives their first paycheck.

There are five steps you must take when hiring new employees:

You must complete this step before you begin the process of hiring. Start by getting an employer identification number (EIN), which you are required to have for payroll tax reports and payments. Then, you will need to join the IRS Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), where you will deposit employment taxes from employee withholdings and your business.

As of Jan. 1, 2020, employers are required to use the new W-4 form for new hires as well as any existing employees who wish to change their withholding status. The W-4 gives you employee information for income tax withholding from their paychecks. You can download and print Form W-4 here.

It is your responsibility as an employer to document the eligibility of new employees to legally work in the United States. You can do this through Form I-9, which every new hire must complete, because it asks for documentation of their identity and work eligibility.

There are two steps to the I-9: First, the employee fills out the form and states which documents they will use to prove their identity and work eligibility. Then, as the employer, you must look over those documents and verify that they are adequate and accurate.

The job application form, as detailed above, provides information about the employee that can be verified if need be, as well as a place for the applicant to verify and sign that the information they gave is correct.

You must register as an employer with several state agencies:

  • State new-hire registration: You need to register new employees with the state's new-hire notification system, which allows the state to collect child support payments from those employees if necessary. You can find information on how to register new hires at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • State employer registration: Each state that collects income taxes requires employers to report and pay those taxes. You can contact your state's taxing agency for information on how to register as an employer in your state, as well as information on withholding forms and requirements for reporting and paying withheld amounts.
  • State unemployment tax: You may need to register with your state labor department to pay state unemployment taxes. This tax is paid by employers into a fund for employees in the event of layoffs . You can contact your state's labor department for more information.
  • State workers' compensation: Workers' compensation pays employees who become injured or ill on the job. You are required to register with your state workers' compensation agency and pay into that fund. [Read related article: What Small Businesses Need to Know About Workers' Compensation]

Key takeaway: There are five steps you need to take before you can properly begin the hiring process, which include registering with state agencies and acquiring the proper employee forms.

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and now writes on small business, social media, and marketing. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.

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