managing applications: CVs or application forms?

The application process is becoming quicker and easier for candidates. Many candidates expect to apply for jobs anytime from their smartphone or tablet, which can lead to overload for the recruiter.

The recruiter managing the process should start with the decision to request CVs or completed application forms.

Both have their advantages. Application forms enable questions to be tailored to your organisation and the role to be filled. However, you may gain a better idea of personality and cultural fit from a CV where applicants have the opportunity to promote themselves in their own terms.

application forms

Well-designed application forms can weed out serial, non-serious applicants, as it takes more time and effort to complete a form than sending a CV. Applicants can be asked to sign a declaration about accuracy and truthfulness of submitted information. 

Organisations can use this route to protect themselves, making it clear that any discrepancies may result in dismissal. This may sound draconian but common untruths include dates, skills, salary, and academic results. Higher Education Degree Datacheck found that 46% of applicants gave a higher grade than they actually achieved and 15% claimed to have a degree they had not.

Other benefits of application forms are:

  • information is presented in a standardised way, facilitating comparisons between candidates
  • information can be requested about specific skills, qualifications and experience 
  • you can seek permission to hold data and so comply with the Data Protection Act 
  • you can ask certain questions about convictions 
  • you can ask to use data to monitor progress against your equal opportunities policy 
  • you can ascertain any special requirements for the interview 
  • you can provide information about when you will take up references.


Requesting CVs may seem an inexpensive option, particularly for smaller employers with low levels of recruitment, allowing candidates to provide extra information that might not be covered in an application form. 

However, no two CV layouts or format are the same, which makes comparisons less obvious. Remember too that candidates can be CV-savvy, with access to online templates, and will not mention areas they would rather avoid.

avoiding unconscious bias

Research has found that unconscious bias can heavily influence recruitment and selection decisions. Several experiments using CV shortlisting exercises have highlighted bias by gender and ethnicity. To counter this, names and ages, for instance, are obscured so that selection is made on skills and experience alone.

One approach is the use of ‘blind’ CVs, which do not reveal certain information to recruiters (for example, which university attended) in order to counter potential bias, particularly towards educational background. This can equally be applied to application forms, to encourage a more diverse range of applicants – see also article 3.9.

In 2015 the government announced the civil service would process applications on a ‘name-blind’ basis so that only the skills of applicants would be considered. Major global organisations employing around 1.8 million people pledged to follow suit. There is potential for this approach to be used more widely, such as in apprenticeships, to tackle so-called ‘unconscious bias’. It has been shown that those with ‘white’-sounding names are almost twice as likely to be responded to positively when applying for a position than those with ‘non-white’-sounding names.

application form template

source: AHRI

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