Management: Recruitment and Selection
The Application Form and Resume
The Application Form
Human Resource Management Services recommends that agencies have applicants complete SFN 10950 - Application for Employment. It complies with employment laws and is reviewed regularly and revised as necessary to ensure legality. The form obtains the information necessary to determine if applicants meet the minimum qualifications of the vacant position, as well as information to determine if applicants meet veterans’ preference requirements.
Furthermore, the application form also contains a block where applicants sign certifying that the information provided is true and acknowledging that inaccurate statements can lead to rejection of their application, or if employed, to termination of their employment.
If an agency prefers an agency-identified form, SFN 10950 has space in the upper right corner for an agency’s name and address.
Some agencies prefer to have applicants use an agency-designed application form. If that is the case, the application form should contain only items that are lawful. Items that are unlawful and should not be included on an application form include: national origin, marital status, physical characteristics, age, arrest records, type of military discharge, religion, photos, disability-related items, etc.
The completed application serves the agency as a pre-screening device; it serves the applicant as a preview of him/herself. From this point on in the selection process, various tools will help verify what is stated on the application form.
Resumes are creatively designed to reveal an applicant’s strengths and hide weaknesses. They should be considered along with completed application forms – not in place of them – as they may contain information that is not available on application forms.
The following process, when applied in a consistent manner, meets the requirements for screening applications under an established personnel system based upon merit principles (NDCC 37-19.1-02(4) regarding veterans’ preference). Because this process is based on job-related criteria, Human Resource Management Services highly recommends such a process whether an agency intends to meet the established personnel system test or not.
- Who Should Do the Screening
The person(s) screening the applications should generally be independent of the interview process. Human Resource Management Services is available to assist in this process or to demonstrate how to use this process.
- Pre-determining the Number of Applicants to Forward to the Appointing Authority
Before receiving and reviewing applications, a decision should be made as to how many applicants to forward on to the appointing authority for final consideration, typically for an interview.
- Screening Criteria
Criteria for effectively identifying the most suitable candidates for appointment should be identified in as much detail as possible. The information contained in the position description and the vacancy announcement may serve as the basis for preparation of an objective screening tool that:
- Eliminates from consideration those applicants who do not meet the required minimum qualifications;
- Assigns a point value to those who meet or exceed the minimum qualifications by assigning a numerical value to each of the identified criteria measuring knowledge, skills, and experience resulting in the most suitable candidates receiving the most merit points;
- Assigns an additional point value for veterans’ preference or disabled veterans’ preference to those who meet the requirements; and
- Results in a ranking of qualified applicants through total point values assigned in 2 and 3 above.
Human Resource Management Services has designed and utilizes a rating method in which points are assigned to relative levels of education, experience, and/or skills based on the requirements of the position. (Call Human Resource Management Services for samples and assistance.) Education, experience, and skills most related to the position requirements are weighted more heavily (assigned a greater number of points) than education, experience, and skills that are somewhat related. Processing each qualified applicant through this process results in a ranking of applicants based on the job requirements. Those applicants whose qualifications most closely match the job requirements will rank the highest. This method also factors in veterans’ preference points. If an agency chooses to have an established personnel system, the scoring method must include points for veterans and disabled veterans as follows:
- 5 points will be added to a veteran’s examination score in a 100-point rating scale, 10 points to a disabled veteran’s score; or
- If the rating scale totals other than 100 points, 5 percent of the scale’s total points should be added to a veteran’s score and 10 percent to a disabled veteran’s score.
Refer to the Veterans Preference Chapter of the Recruitment and Selection for more information.
- Determining Which Applicants Get Interviewed
As referred to in NDCC 37-19.1, a listing of all qualified applicants in rank order according to their screening score is called the "registry." A "certificate of eligibles" is the list of qualified applicants starting from the top of the registry and ending with the number of names pre-determined by the appointing authority to be considered for final selection, typically after being interviewed. These are the applicants that can then be considered for final selection.
The points arrived at in the application/resume screening process are used only to determine who is interviewed and considered for final selection. They should not be carried over to the final interview rating process.
To obtain information on this application screening method, contact Human Resource Management Services or your agency’s human resource representative.
Analysis of Applications/Resumes
Analysis of an application and/or resume will show three things:
- The information at face value that will be used to determine if the applicant meets the minimum education, experience, and skill requirements,
- The skills the applicant used in presenting the information, and
- The way the applicant thinks, as revealed by answers given in the application.
The way people present themselves in an application or a resume is only one factor to consider when making the hiring decision. A resume that deviates from the "acceptable" format is not reason for excluding an applicant from the selection process. All of the items considered in reviewing an application or resume should be lawful and relevant to the position being filled.
Other Items to Consider in Review of Applications and Resumes
- Conviction Information
The Application for Employment (SFN 10950) asks for conviction information on crimes other than minor traffic violations. You must have a job-related reason for using conviction information as the basis for rejecting an applicant.
Brief or vague information may indicate that the applicant is lazy, careless, or trying to conceal something. It may also indicate poor writing skills or inattentiveness to details. Another possibility is that the application was completed by a person who has a disability and can't complete the application as thoroughly or neatly as you would normally expect.
- Appearance of the Application or Resume
Is it neat and easy to read? Resumes should be typed, grammatically correct, and easy to understand. They should look professional - not on gaudy-colored or scented paper. However, some high school and college instructors encourage the use of bold colors to get your attention. Cover letters accompanying a resume or application generally show strong interest by the applicant and may provide additional relevant information.
- Blanks or Missing Information
First, make sure that all basic information, such as education and work history, is included. Second, look for time gaps between education and between each job. Make notes and probe for the missing information during the interview. The intent of filling in the gaps is not to make a judgement on how the applicant has spent time, but rather to find out the reasons for unexplained gaps. For example, perhaps a gap between graduation and employment was for a trip where the applicant gained job-related knowledge.
- Overlaps in Dates
Dates for a job and school or for two or more jobs may overlap. This, of course, is possible, but examine the dates for accuracy. Verify if necessary.
- Frequency of Job Changes
Frequent change of jobs has traditionally had a negative connotation. However, there may be valid reasons for the job changes. Frequent job changes may be positive if there was progression in job responsibilities along the way. Also, workers today change jobs more frequently. Don’t draw premature conclusions about frequent job changes. It is something that should be noted and probed in the job interview.
- Salary Requirements
Don’t dismiss an applicant based only on salary requirements indicated on the application or resume. Individuals may not be familiar with the pay processes of the State and the agency, the starting salary, etc., and, therefore, do not know what to indicate on the application. Also some individuals may indicate a salary requirement much higher, but that doesn’t mean they won’t accept less when they review the benefit plan. Applicants may accept a lower salary than their current salary if they are looking for a change in career or location or for job satisfaction.
- Job Duties
Most likely previous job duties will be discussed in the interview. However, if duties are unclear or vague, definitely make a note to probe for further detail in the interview.
- Educational Background
Did they finish high school or college? If not, ask why. There may be a very good reason - or it may be an indication of lack of drive and self-discipline. What kinds of courses were taken? Courses in certain areas like foreign languages or advanced mathematics are more demanding than easier courses like health, recreation, etc. The person who took difficult courses may be more driven to excel and self-disciplined.
- "Red-flag" Items
Review the application or resume for any items that don’t make sense or leave you with an uneasy feeling. An example: If you ask on your application form the reasons for leaving a job, watch for the answer "personal." Often times, that can be a red flag - maybe the individual was fired. Or maybe there were personality conflicts, not necessarily the fault of the applicant, with which the applicant had to deal. You’ll want to probe during the interview for the reason for leaving.
Phone screening may be done after the application screening process and before the formal final interviews. An initial interview including a telephone interview can be used as part of the merit-based ranking or scoring process for veterans’ preference purposes. Phone screening is useful when:
- You aren’t sure, based on a review of the resume and application, of an applicant’s suitability for a position or you need to verify information used in the merit ranking or scoring process;
- An out-of-town applicant appears a weaker-qualified applicant, and you don’t want him/her spending money for traveling to the interview.
The goal of the phone screening is to quickly determine applicants’ capabilities. Therefore, questions should be focused on knowledge and skills required to perform the position’s major functions.
Since the phone screening is a "mini interview," the format could be arranged as follows:
- A few introductory words on the purpose of the screening.
- A brief overview of the position in non-specific terms.
- Knock-out questions. Knock-out questions are used to determine if the applicant possesses the requirements of the job. If the applicant does not satisfactorily answer these questions to where it would constitute justifiable cause, they are knocked out of consideration.
- Likes/dislikes in past positions and next position.
- Minimum salary requirements.
- Date available for employment.
Refer to Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Questioning for Application Forms and Interviews and to The Interview chapter for a list of what can and can't be asked of applicants.