Screening questions to include on job application

Job Screening Questions to Include on a Job Application

Nearly three years from the start of a global pandemic, employers are still journeying through unknown waters. “Help Wanted”, “Now Hiring” and “Sign On Bonus” signs permeate scenery as one travels along any road.

Employers know that the application process cannot be the same as it was just a few years ago. Having a quick, mobile-friendly application process (with approximately 25 key screening questions) will help employers convert more job seekers into applicants. This especially true when compared to companies that use a long application that asks for “nice to know”–but not essential–information. With 25 questions being a goal number, what kind of questions should be included?

3 Types of Screening Questions to Include on Job Applications:

Screening Questions on Veteran Status

Establishing veteran hiring initiatives within an organization helps both the employer and the military veteran. Veterans offer a skill set that can complement the organization’s mission and vision. Veterans can amplify leadership and performance in the civilian work environment. They have proven themselves to be team players, attentive to detail, an able to handle stress.

While some companies might receive tax breaks for hiring veterans (i.e. WOTC ), careful verbiage asking about veteran status is prudent on the employment application. Military discharge type should not be asked. The EEOC has established that hiring decisions based on military discharge status alone violates Title VII. Military discharge information should only be asked when there is a legitimate need in regard to the job listing.

If an employer includes a question about military discharge status in the application, it needs to include a disclaimer. This disclaimer should state that discharges less than honorable are not absolute bars to employment.

Screening Questions on Reliable Transportation

Absenteeism can have tremendous financial implications on a company. According to Forbes, absenteeism costs $3,600 per worker each year across employers and employees.  So including a question that asks an applicant if they have reliable transportation to and from work is not intrusive.

It is asking the applicant to confirm their ability to attend work regularly, reducing absenteeism due to transportation issues. Also, asking if the applicant has reliable transportation does not spotlight those who do not or cannot drive; the question includes individuals who do not have a valid driver’s license due to infractions or by choice.

Screening Questions on Remote Work

This is an evolving topic as more companies are moving to permanent or semi-permanent remote work arrangements. COVID-19’s global shutdown forced employers of all sizes and scope to re-examine work arrangements due to health, family and safety. Remote work environments can also reduce overhead for an organization through the elimination of a single worksite.

If asking about remote compatibility, companies may ask about reliable access to the internet and/or private workspaces to accommodate remote work.Keep in mind, it’s important to be sure questions like this are job specific, which will help filter applicants. Job specific screening questions are questions unique to the job listing.

For example, if a company is hiring for a registered nurse, there is no need to ask every applicant for every job listing if they have an unencumbered nursing license. ExactHire HR Software offers the ability to add one or more groups of job specific screening questions to a job listing so the company can ask pertinent questions related to that job listing to help narrow the applicant pool to the most qualified applicants.

3 Types of  Questions to Avoid on Job Applications:

Screening Questions about Convictions

Unless there is a bona fide reason to ask about conviction, consider leaving off conviction related questions in the application. Background information can be communicated in the interview or when a background check is completed prior to hiring.  Former offenders are a population of individuals who are often overlooked but are willing and dedicated to being successful employees. Many states and localities prevent asking about conviction on the employment application.

Screening Questions about Salary History

Many local and state municipalities prohibit the inclusion of any question related to salary history to help reduce the disproportionate pay ranges between gender. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2020, women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s, and the gap is even wider for many women of color.

Human Resources professionals are knowledgeable of the pay grade for vacant job listings. According to SHRM, salary information and benefits are the most important to job seekers. Instead of making a job seeker wonder about the salary range of a job listing, include that information so the job seeker can decide if it is a role of interest–duty and salary wise. This will help eliminate subsequent applicant withdrawals should they find out the salary does not meet their needs.

If the salary has some flexibility, consider listing the base anticipated salary with the caveat of “higher salary depending on experience and qualifications”. This will help accommodate applicants who are unsure of applying when the baseline salary provided is lower than what they desire.

Screening Questions about Vaccination

As more organizations are establishing requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations, employers must be cautious in what is asked on the employment application related to COVID-19. Employers should only ask vaccination questions on an employment application if it is pertinent to the job listing (i.e. healthcare). Additionally, a company’s legal team should approve the language prior to its inclusion in the application.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has clarified that asking employees whether they have received the COVID-19 vaccine is not a disability-related inquiry under the ADA; however, applicants are not employees, so asking about vaccination status could directly or inadvertently affect the hiring decision through explicit or implicit bias.

If a company is not asking its employees about their vaccination status, then it should not be asking applicants of their vaccination status either.

ExactHire does not provide legal counsel, so please check with your company’s legal team regarding the legality of application content.

The application process forms an applicant’s initial perception of a company. This perception and the word of mouth and social media discussions that may result from it will impact employer brand. So it is crucial to have an engaging, inquisitive–but not intrusive–application process.

A time-consuming job application will increase your applicant drop-off rate. Focus on core questions that are essential to the effective screening of applicants. Go one step further, and use those key questions to positively engage with applicants, and you will underscore the human part of your human resources role.


Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

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