Should I Ask This on the Employment Application?

Useful Employment Application Guidelines

Whether the positions an organization is seeking to fill are temporary or permanent, it is important for Human Resources representatives to reflect on the content included in their organization’s employment application(s) to determine if the content is within the scope of fair hiring practices. In this blog, I’ll identify a few employment application audit ideas to help you determine whether you need to eliminate or rephrase any questions that could lead to discriminatory hiring practices.  Please note: ExactHire does not provide legal counsel. If you are in doubt about the compliance of your employment application, please speak with your organization’s legal team.

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Background Check Guidance

Many companies complete background checks on the individuals who have been offered employment. For a background check to be completed accurately, the social security number and date of birth are necessary to properly identify the individual. However, an individual’s social security number and date of birth should NOT be included in the application in any format; this highly sensitive information can be collected from the individual at the time of background check consent. If a minimum age is necessary for employment in a particular position, an organization may ask if the applicant is 16, 18, 21 or older (or whatever the legal requirement may be for that position type). No questions regarding the years of attendance should be asked on an application or in an interview.

Avoid Questions Related to Religion

Religious affiliation is one element that should not be asked or discussed in the hiring process. Even though many religious organizations have events and practices which occur regularly throughout the year, for certain religions, there are increased numbers of worship activities in the winter season. An employer can specify the hours/days/shifts for the vacant position but also include that the employer provides reasonable accommodations for religious practices that do not pose an undue hardship towards the employer.

Language Fluency and Employment Applications

Another component that needs careful phrasing within an employment application involves any questions related to language(s) spoken. If relevant to the position for which the applicant is applying, an employer can ask about language(s) spoken, read or written. If speaking, reading or writing another language(s) are irrelevant skills for the position, there is no need to ask for that information so it is best to omit that question. One of the many features of ExactHire’s HireCentric applicant tracking system is that you may create groups of job specific screening questions where an organization can ask applicants questions focused and relevant to the particular position.

Asking About Prior Military Experience

Military veterans offer a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill that can provide long-term benefits to your organization. These brave men and women are seeking to use their skills to enhance an organization’s growth, and if you are looking to start a veteran-focused hiring initiative within your organization, the Department of Labor is ready to help. Organizations can benefit directly in the social and interpersonal capacity, along with the financial capacity, when veterans are on the organization’s payroll. On an employment application, an employer can ask if an individual was in the military but dates and type of discharge should not be asked. An applicant should include the training and skills acquired through the military as professional experience.

Restrictions on Applicant Criminal History Information

With the Ban the Box movement, many cities and states have enacted some form of legislation that affects how and when an employer can ask an applicant any questions related to convictions. The following states listed below have enacted both public and private sector Ban the Box legislation which means an applicant typically cannot be asked about convictions on an employment application or prior to the interview stage of the hiring process.

  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Rhode Island
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Connecticut (Effective January 2017)
  • Vermont (Effective July 2017)

There are exceptions within the legislation that may allow an employer to ask an applicant about convictions early in the hiring process so please consult your organization’s legal team to see if you qualify. To keep abreast of the Ban the Box movement, visit the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Professional Organization Membership

Many employers view membership in professional organizations as beneficial to the growth of an individual. It is important to encourage individuals to pursue lifelong learning opportunities; however, these opportunities should not negatively impact an applicant’s pursuit of employment. On an employment application and during the interview process, it is important for an employer to seek only job-related memberships and service and avoid asking anything about memberships that could reflect ethnicity, gender, religion and other protected information.

Test Your Own Employment Application

Organizations periodically need to take a moment to reflect on the content of their current employment application(s) and peruse it from a potential applicant’s eyes. We encourage our clients to periodically test their employment applications so they can determine if any changes need to be made. Changes to the content of your HireCentric ATS employment application(s) must be made by a member of the ExactHire Support Team.

ExactHire: At Your Service

At ExactHire, we take pride in doing our best to ensure our clients’ satisfaction.  After you speak with your legal counsel, and if you and your legal team decide changes need to be made to your employment application(s) for compliance, the ExactHire team will work with you to create a new application with the verbiage you specify. Also, one of the benefits of using ExactHire’s HireCentric software as your applicant tracking system is that you can create multiple employment applications, each specific to your needs or hiring practices within a particular state. If you are an existing client looking for more information about updating your current employment application(s) and/or creating additional employment applications, please email, and let us know your needs.

What Federal Contractors Need to Know About the VETS-4212 Report

If your organization is a federal contractor or subcontractor, you’re probably breathing a calming, collective exhale thanks to a Final Rule issued by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) which revised the VEVRAA (Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act) reporting regulations, and that goes into effect later this year. Finally…less paperwork rather than more thanks to this compliance reporting update! The new Federal Contractor Veterans’ Employment Report VETS-4212 replaces the VETS-100A Report and brings relief to affected employers as it requires less rigorous data collection than its predecessor.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about the Final Rule and the resulting new VETS-4212 form with Tony Pickell, Founder of Precision Planning — an Affirmative Action, EEO and Diversity consulting firm.

When does the new reporting go into effect?

Tony: “The updated regulations were published in 2014, but they are effective for the 2015 filing period which opens on August 1, 2015. All covered federal contractors and subcontractors must file VETS-4212 by September 30, 2015.”

Jessica: “So, who is a covered federal contractor or subcontractor when it comes to filing a VETS-4212?”

Tony: “A covered contractor will hold a contractor or subcontract in the amount of $100,000 or more.”

Jessica: “Okay, so the deadline is coming up and it’s confined to a specific time of year for all employers that are affected.”

Tony: “Yes, it is similar to filing the EEO-1 Report in that it is an annual report and must be filed by September 30th of each year.”

Why is the VETS-4212 Report replacing VETS-100 and VETS-100A?

Tony: “The old VETS-100 Report is gone. It only applied to employers that had contracts entered into and not modified since December 1, 2003. It became obsolete as contract prices changed and new contracts were issued. VETS-100A was the report that replaced VETS-100 for contracts entered into after December 1, 2003, and the VETS-100A report has now been renamed the VETS-4212. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service agency (VETS), which administers the reporting requirement, modified the report requirements for several reasons. First, VETS could not get an accurate count of total veterans because a veteran employee in a Company’s workforce could fall into more than one protected veteran category (i.e. disabled veteran and recently separated veteran) and the VETS-100A report didn’t require a total veteran number. Second, the new VETS-4212 format increases confidentiality for disabled veterans. Third, because the OFCCP changed the name of the former Other Protected Veteran category to Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran in 2014, VETS mirrored this change to make the veteran categories consistent with OFCCP regulations. As a result, the VETS-4212 was created.”

Jessica: “I’m glad they gave it a different name rather than another variation on “100”…less confusing for all. Why is it called the “4212”?

Tony: “It is named after the U.S. Code section for the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) 38 U.S. Code 4212.”

At what point in the hiring process is data collected for the VETS-4212 Report?

Tony: “At the post-offer stage via a voluntary self-disclosure form.”

How is the VETS-4212 Report different than VETS-100A?

Tony: “As I mentioned, the ‘Other Protected Veteran’ category has been updated to Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran to be consistent with terminology the OFCCP now uses for veteran categories. In the past, federal contractors and subcontractors have had to report employee and new hire veteran numbers by the four individual protected veteran categories. However, the recent changes made will require employers to only report veteran employees and new hires simply as ‘protected veterans’ in aggregate numbers.”

Jessica: “That’s great news…that means less of a data collection burden for employers.”

Tony: “Yes, but it’s optional for them to continue to collect veteran data at the individual category level, if they prefer. In response to this form change by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, the OFCCP issued an FAQ on post-offer veteran self-identification.  This FAQ clarifies that contractors may either continue to collect the individual protected veteran group information at the post-offer stage from hired employees (as has been required for years), or contractors may instead choose to modify post-offer forms to simply define the four protected veteran groups and then ask hired employees to respond with (a) I am a protected veteran; (b) I am not a protected veteran; or (c) I choose not to provide this information.  So, contractors now have a choice on how they would like to proceed in the future on post-offer veteran self-identification.”

Jessica: “That’s interesting, and makes me wonder about any reasons an employer may choose to stick with the traditional individual category detail for collection.”

What are some pros/cons of choosing to collect at either the aggregate or individual veteran category level?

Tony: “There are different considerations. The simplified data collection process can reduce record keeping burdens for employers and make VETS-4212 filing easier.

At the same time, now that the process will be more simplified, I think it is possible employers may get a higher veteran response rate because the veterans may be less likely to read the actual definitions (not being forced to pick a specific category in the future). There are some veterans who do not meet the definition of a ‘protected’ veteran. As a result, veterans who were confused about whether they fell into the protected categories before, may now just check the protected veteran box (even if they aren’t really a protected veteran). Employers could realize a higher ‘veteran’ hiring rate, consequently.”

Jessica: “I can see how that might be a pro for employers. What about any cons of moving to the new collection approach?”

Tony: “If an employer does choose to simplify the post-offer self-disclosure form, it will obviously require the existing form to be replaced. That could mean just a paper form; or, it may mean changes to an HRIS or standard operating procedures and require additional training. Some organizations may not have the energy or staff bandwidth to go back to IT and other groups within the organization to make this change after adapting all the VEVRAA-related changes from last year.”

Jessica: “Yes, I can see the form change being a temporary stumbling block for some contractors and subcontractors. Do you think VETS will offer any leniency on the deadline this year?”

Tony: “The VETS Administration has frequently granted extensions on filings in the past. Given that this is the first year, I anticipate that it is possible an extension could be granted beyond the September 30th deadline, but of course there is no guarantee and contractors should be prepared to file a VETS-4212 on or before September 30, 2015.

What other changes do you foresee coming down the pipeline related to veterans?

Tony: “I think there will be additional FAQs to clarify the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act regulation changes that took effect on March 23, 2014, but I wouldn’t expect any regulatory process changes anytime soon given all the change that happened last year. FAQs can tweak the interpretation of the regulations; however, they don’t have the binding force of law. Federal Contractors and the OFCCP alike will continue to digest these changes in the coming years.  During this time, we will learn more about how the agencies are going to audit contractors, and then see what kind of audit pattern emerges…as we only have about six months of audit data so far under the new regulations. A year from now we will see some trends and be able to make more interesting predictions on how the future may go.


Thank you to Tony Pickell of Precision Planning for sharing his expertise in this area for our blog. If your organization is looking for a trusted resource to navigate the complex reporting requirements attributable to federal contractors and subcontractors, then please reach out to Tony for assistance.

ExactHire’s HireCentric applicant tracking system is outfitted with the data collection tools your organization needs to collect and report on pre-offer Affirmative Action Plan compliance-related items such as the applicant flow log report.

The Benefits of Hiring Military Veterans as Employees

Veterans. Men and women who proudly serve our country and sacrifice for the freedoms in which we hold dearly. Once these brave individuals complete their overseas or domestic service, often they return to the United States to seek employment in the full-time or part-time capacity. With plans to reduce the number of soldiers deployed overseas by approximately 50%, many returning soldiers will be seeking employment, and this population of highly qualified jobseekers is not to be ignored. Veterans are a population of jobseekers that bring unique and sought after qualities to an organization. The benefits of hiring veterans are numerous, and here are a few of the main reasons to hire a veteran for your company’s vacant position.

Some employers are afraid of hiring veterans because of fears of future deployments or negative stereotypes (can’t take orders, PTSD, etc.); these fears can be appeased. Military cutbacks are reducing the number of deployments so military members are not leaving nearly as often. Reserve and Guard members should inform you of their current status of military membership and potential deployments so plans can be made to lessen any inconveniences to a company resulting from a deployment. Military soldiers are accustomed to taking orders and also demonstrating leadership skills from their training and on-the-job experience. They understand rank and demonstrate respect to management.

Not only can veterans enhance company productivity with their specialized skillsets which can lead to increased company profit, there can be financial perks from the federal government for hiring veterans as well. Another piece of legislation to familiarize oneself with is the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) which requires covered federal government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment specified categories of veterans protected by the Act and prohibits discrimination against such veterans. For a more thorough explanation of the provisions of this act, please visit Did you know that in ExactHire’s HireCentric ATS software, employers can collect EEOC and Affirmative Action data information easily to simplify the hiring and reporting processes?

Where to Find Veterans to Employ

There are various events that can help introduce you to this skilled job seeking population. Talk with your state government’s workforce development board to learn what hiring events are held for veterans in your state and states where you hire. Follow the events going on within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Have a member of your HR team actively recruit job seeking veterans. For employers in the Central Indiana area, consider attending Operation Hire a Hoosier Veteran on April 16th at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Veterans. They have made many sacrifices for us. We can never fully return the favor to them for their sacrifice and courage; however, let’s provide them with an opportunity to utilize their skills in a role that fits both the company and the jobseeker. When job matches of this sort occur, productivity is not the only thing that increases. Patriotism thrives as well.

ExactHire provides web-based applicant tracking software, as well as onboarding software and employee assessments. For more information about our solutions, please visit our resources page or contact us.

Image credit: Remembering the 65th Anniversary of Operation Market by The U.S. Army (contact)

Have You Thanked a Veteran Lately? Have You Hired a Veteran Lately?

It’s no secret that I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for the men and women – past, present, and future – that make up our Military. You will see that every opportunity I have to pay back our military, I will do it without complaint. It boils down to this one sentence, “They risk their lives so that I may be free.” There are very few instances where I would willingly go into harm’s way to save those I do not know. These men and women do it every day.

As we approach Veterans Day, it is a good moment to stop and think about how you thank Veterans for what they have done, are doing, and will do in the days to come.

Have you ever considered hiring a Veteran? Yes, it is wonderful to personally thank any Veteran that you may see. And it is valuable to host charity collections for Veterans. But how about considering a Military person as an employee?

Maybe you are hesitant because of their experience level. In one of our recent Facebook shares, the article discusses hiring ‘under-qualified’ employees. Many military members have been taught skills that are transferable; however, some of them may seem underqualified at first glance because they may have used military-type language on their resumes that doesn’t necessarily translate well for hiring managers with civilian workplace experience. Keep this in mind when looking at their application. Do you need someone who is able to keep calm and think strategically when things are going haywire around them? Does this sound like any experience the military may have taught a potential employee? If you have ever thought about bidding for a government contract or need employees with government clearance (particularly if you are subject to affirmative action plan reporting), hiring veterans helps your company distinguish itself from others.

Did you also know that many applicants will not market themselves as having served in the military? Some find it an honor and part of their duty to serve America and therefore do not want to put it “front and center.” Others are worried about any negative connotation an employer may have about veterans. If you find that there is a break in employment history, you may want to ask if they served because military service is not always obvious. Many of our clients ask if an applicant has ever served in the military as part of their standard employment application in their applicant tracking software portal. This can help identify a veteran who has not made his/her service known in other parts of the application.

Forbes released an article November 9th titled, “5 Reasons Leaders Hire Veterans”. The author, Meghan Biro, did an excellent job at pinpointing and expanding on these skills: leadership, grace under pressure, performance and results-oriented, self-sacrifice, and communication and goal-setting.

A program that was started last year by JPMorgan Chase called the 100,000 Jobs Mission helps connect companies and Veterans. Their goal is to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020. You can sign up on their site to help with the mission. Your company’s logo will be displayed on their page and it will be linked to your career site.

Hiring a veteran can be a great opportunity to gain a loyal, dedicated, hard-working employee. But make sure you are hiring for optimal job fit first and foremost. It is not good for you or the veteran to hire the wrong person for the wrong job. Taking a second look at a veteran’s application is a good way to say thank you on this Veterans Day.