Screening & Hiring: Applications and Resumes

Screening and Hiring

Applications and Resumes

  1. FAQs
  2. Introduction
  3. Purpose of Employment Applications
  4. Statements to Include on Applications
    1. Statements Required by State or Local Law
    2. Federal Regulations
  5. Statements to Avoid on Applications
  6. Acceptable Inquiries
  7. Commercially Prepared Applications
  8. Screening Resumes
  9. Applications / Resumes At-A-Glance
  10. See also: Recruitment & Staffing

Frequently Asked Application / Resume Questions

  1. Should prospective employees fill out an application?
  2. Are there any statements or specific language that should be included on an application?
  3. Are there any questions that should not be asked on an application form?
  4. Can an application inquire as to date of birth?
  5. In what way should an application be ADA compliant?
  6. What kind of information requests are acceptable on an application?
  7. Is it safe to use a commercially prepared application?
  8. What information should a employer check when screening a resume?


The following section deals with the use of applications and resumes as screening tools for hiring employees. We will address the issue both in terms of pure function, and also in terms of legal concerns. It is important for employers to recognize that there are federal and state laws governing the type of information that can be asked and how information can be used in the selection process.

The Purpose of Employment Applications

The employment application serves several important purposes. The main purposes are:

  • To gather information about applicants in a consistent and legally defensible way.
  • To assure that applicants are familiar with, and agree to, employer requirements such as “employment-at-will” disclaimers and consent to check references.
  • To help employers define who is an applicant.

Statements to Include on Applications

As a general rule, application forms should contain any statutory requirements under federal, state, or local law, and where appropriate, statements intended to protect an employer from potential liability.

Statements Required by State or Local Law

The first category of statements to be included on application forms are those statements that are required by state or local law. When drafting or reviewing an application form, employers should always check state and local laws to determine what information is either required or prohibited on employment application forms. For example, the states of Maryland and Massachusetts require employers to include specific language on employment application forms regarding the use of lie detector tests.

A copy of the state fair employment practice laws and the state fair employment agency’s rules and regulations can be obtained directly from the agency or from various legal publications.

Federal Regulations


E-Verify is an online system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. For instructions and policy guidance, click here to visit the Employers section of the website, or click here to visit the Employees section.

Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, is the key element of E-Verify’s online employment eligibility verification. E-Verify compares information the employer enters from Form I-9 to records available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This electronic verification confirms an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States.

Although E-Verify uses information from Form I-9, click here to see some important differences between Form I-9 and the E-Verify requirements.

E-verify (e-verify) FAQs.

Statements to Avoid on Application Forms

Employers are forbidden from inquiring into certain areas on the application form or in employment interviews. The EEOC guidelines on sex, national origin, and religious discrimination address impermissible or potentially impermissible inquiries on application forms.

State Guidelines Regarding Unacceptable Questions

In addition to federal guidelines, there are specific pre-employment inquiry guidelines published by many state human rights commissions stipulating that certain questions on an application form are impermissible, inadvisable, or permissible only for legitimate purposes. The following 23 states have published Pre-employment Inquiry Guidelines: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Acceptable Inquiries

Generally, information that is job related may be asked on an application form.

Commercially Prepared Application Forms

In light of all the considerations required in preparing application forms, an employer might be tempted to use existing commercially prepared forms. But be aware, commercially prepared forms should not be used until they have been thoroughly reviewed by legal counsel familiar with the employment laws in the state (or locality) in which the employer operates. There are two major reasons for this: A commercially prepared application form may either fail to contain some notice required by state law or may include some question forbidden by applicable state law. State employment laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and a form that purports to be applicable in all jurisdictions can be so only if it complies with the strictest interpretations of the strictest states. The use of such a form can place an employer at a disadvantage if the state laws applicable to the employer are more exacting than those addressed by the commercially prepared form.

Screening Resumes

Resumes are generally submitted, often unsolicited, by job applicants during the initial screening process. However, only those individuals who are qualified for the open position and are granted an interview should be invited to complete an employment application.

The resume is usually the first document a prospective employer reviews. For this reason, it is imperative that employers know what to look for in screening resumes, especially in light of the increase in resume fraud, (i.e., lies, omissions, and exaggerations).

Employers should compare the information given on a resume with the information given on the employment application. As a result, employers should not accept incomplete employment applications with “see resume” notations. Any inconsistencies should be explored in detail during the interview, if warranted. Applicants tend to be more accurate on application forms because they are official organization documents and they are required to sign their names and typically to acknowledge that all information provided on the application is true, correct, and complete. For this reason and the reasons given in previous sections, all applicants (without exception) should be required to complete and sign an employment application before being hired.

Applications / Resumes At-A-Glance

  1. Applications serve as a critical tool for safeguarding employers from accusations of unfair or discriminatory hiring practices.
  2. Certain statements should be included on application forms in order to satisfy state and federal laws.
  3. Employers must be careful to avoid questions and statements on applications that can be construed as discriminatory or in violation of the law.
  4. Special care should be taken to ensure that applications are ADA compliant.
  5. There are acceptable inquiries which should be included on applications.
  6. Employers should be cautious when using commercially prepared applications forms.
  7. It is important to check the resume against the application for any discrepancies. – The Business Tools you need. Developed by leading HR experts.