Managing applications: CV or application form?

The application process has become a very quick, easy process where candidates can apply for jobs anywhere, anytime from their smartphone or tablet. Potentially high volumes of applicants makes establishing the most efficient way of managing applications a matter of priority, starting from whether you request CVs or completed applications.

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

Well-designed application forms also weed out serial, non-serious applicants – it takes more time and effort to complete a form than send a CV – and means applicants can be asked to sign a declaration about accuracy and truthfulness of submitted information. Application forms can also make 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% 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 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 questions about convictions not treated as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act you can ask applicants to complete a separate monitoring form to enable you to monitor progress against your equal opportunities policy you can ask them whether they need any special arrangements 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. But no two CV layouts or format are the same, which makes sifting slower. Remember too that candidates are CV-savvy, with access to online templates, and will not mention areas they would rather avoid.

Blind CVs

One new approach is the use of ‘blind’ CVs – not showing or hiding certain information (e.g. university attended) from recruiters in order to both counter potential bias, particularly towards educational background. This can equally be applied to application forms to encourage a more diverse range of applicants.

Law firm Clifford Chance pioneered a ‘CV blind’ policy, prompted by concerns that top positions in politics, law and the media are increasingly dominated by Oxbridge alumni. Information about the universities candidates attended were withheld to interviewers, and the firm attracted a third more non-Oxbridge applicants with graduate trainees now coming from 41 different universities.