Interviews, Jobs, Resumes

What’s The Deal With Invasive Job Applications?

Job searching invites a range of emotions: it can be worrisome to disengage from an ill-fitting position, to nab your first professional role or to reestablish yourself after a hiatus. It can also be a thrill: there are scores of interesting roles and enticing employers abound.

It’s exciting to spot an ideal position at a great organization. With heart racing, you write a sincere, impassioned cover letter and tweak your resume. But when you go to submit your materials, you discover that an intricate, exhausting application is also required.  

Your heart sinks. Really? They want salary history and expectations in a space where there’s no opportunity to defer or to offer an explanation. For real? They want you to check a box labeling yourself “disabled” if you have any ailments from their indicated list? Um, is this legal? Next, they need your citizenship status, gender identification, and race. Oh, also, they require an aptitude test.

Submitting this information to an organization with which you have no relationship goes against everything you’ve learned about protecting your confidential information. Plus, it gives you pause about that employer you were so excited about. If they treat potential employees like this, how do they treat staff?

What’s the deal with these invasion job applications?

The lowdown

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), some employers collect applicants’ data to track the companies’ recruitment practices. SHRM notes: “[E]mployers may be working to measure the validity of a selection procedure. . . Employers that are subject to affirmative action requirements are required to collect anonymous data on race and sex from applicants.”

This makes sense, but it doesn’t explain the bulk of data that some employers collect. HR guru and Forbes contributor Liz Ryan explains: “Their purpose is to weed people out, not to welcome them in.”

And what about those aptitude tests? Nick Corcodilos, recruitment expert from Ask the Headhunter explains:  “They’d rather spend money on tests to filter you in or out, then spend the hiring manager’s time to interview you to make a judgment.”

So again, the strategy is to ask you to pony up your personal information, making it easier on their side to quickly sort candidates’ materials.  

The legal strategy

While having all applicant data in an easy-to-review format may be one draw for companies, they also have a legal responsibility to properly vet candidates.

Edith L. Curry, J.D., writes: “Prudent employers should take all legally available means to screen job applicants and verify their character, qualifications, and abilities. . . Indeed, employers’ failure to perform adequate background checks may open the door to costly ‘negligent hiring’ litigation should an employee harm a customer or co-worker when evidence of such behavior could have been discovered prior to the hiring. Therefore, when considering the privacy interests of job applicants and potential employees, as opposed to existing employees, courts more likely defer to employer decisions to collect personal information.”

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Protecting sensitive information

Employers have an obligation to protect the information they amass. Roy Maurer, writing for SHRM, explains: “Once this information is exposed, companies not only suffer financial and reputational loss, they can be prosecuted by federal regulators for failing to protect individuals’ sensitive information.” The stakes are high for companies to properly secure candidates’ information.

Job seeker strategies

Sharon Potsch, CSP, Talent Engagement Director for Wunderland Group, advises: “Online applications can oftentimes be clunky and require job seekers to ad-hoc About Me sections above and beyond a resume. . . While it’s tempting to avoid these online applications altogether, networking your way through a search can’t be your only method. Eventually, you’ll find a role where the only way in involves filling out an online application.” Potsch elaborates: “Effective job searches should be thought of as a pie: every method of search should be a piece including networking, company research, working with recruiters, and, yes, online applications.”

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So how can you streamline this? Potsch recommends: “Create ‘boilerplate’ copy. The templated copy you create should describe three main areas typically asked in the application process:”

  1. Something About Yourself
  2. Ways you go ‘Above & Beyond’
  3. Extracurricular activities, clubs, and awards.

“This boilerplate copy can then be multi-purposed into quick email cover letters or witty quips for follow-up emails.”

Potsch also points out the importance of language. “Optimize your content. . . the words and phrases used in the job description mirror the words and phrases the recruiters are most likely using to find applicable resumes. Don’t let these precious clues go by unnoticed. Ensure that each section of Free Form content makes use of these relevant keywords and phrases. This helps ensure your resume will be found by the recruiting or applicant sourcing support leverage by the organization. Templated, keyword-rich copy saves time and mental energy allowing you to channel your energies on getting through the Online Application Hoops so that you can get yourself to the interview.”

Streamlining your approach makes the application process cleaner and easier.

Good luck! You’ve got this!

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