January 27, 2015

What’s the Difference Between an Employee Application and a Resume?

By Paul Bieber

It’s easy… Application starts with ‘A,’ and Resume starts with ‘R.’ Otherwise, they are the same thing. Right?


A resume tells you what the potential employee wants to tell you. An application tells you what you need to know to make a proper hiring decision. Big difference here. A resume and cover letter are key parts of the hiring process; they get the employee in the door for that first interview. But when that door opens, have a job application waiting for them.

You can use a standard job application purchased from your local stationary supplier. They may save you certain headaches, as each state may have different rules about what you can or cannot ask. Give each applicant a clipboard with a cover note that says, “Please fill this out completely, and be sure to sign the forms that accompany this application.” If you want to design your own application, go ahead, but use the one from the stationary store as a guideline. For our fabrication plant employees, we added a copy of a tape measure and asked them to circle a certain point and determine the distance from one point to another. Almost half of our walk-in applicants couldn’t do this. 

I look at the application as more important than the resume. Is the applicant’s handwriting neat and understandable? Does he follow the one instruction you have given: “fill this out completely!” If someone takes a shortcut on his work history and says, “see resume,” he will take shortcuts in his working career and won’t follow your specific job-related instructions. 

On your or the store-bought form, there should be a spot for the employee to sign the form, guaranteeing their information is accurate. It should also state that any false statements will be cause for terminating employment. If it comes out that Mr. John Doe doesn’t have that college degree, you have the cause to fire him with no chance of his complaining to any outside lawyer or commission. 

This is the time and place you give your drug testing format and ask the employee to sign a copy. If he won’t sign it, it is because he doesn’t want to be tested, and since you should be testing all new employees, this one doesn’t get a few minutes of your valuable time. If you have a pre-employment physical, have the approval form for that attached also. 

I take two minutes and read the job application and compare to the resume. Often times there will be differences that you may want to comment on during the interview. I like to watch the applicant fill out the application. Are they nervous? Calm? Or somewhere in-between? This tells you how they will react to stress on the job. Watch how he walks into the interview… is he favoring one leg, or does he look like he is uncomfortable? If you get to the point of a walking tour, you can better observe this.

OK, enough for today. We’ll continue thoughts about the interview next week. I am going to watch the snow fall here. We have about a foot or so and are expecting about 18″ inches. It really is beautiful now. It will be a real mess later today and for the next couple of days.