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Tailor each employment application to the specific job.

What insight can you glean from a completed job application? Not much, because most are too general for any true insight. They typically collect only basic information, such as employment, education, salary history and job responsibilities.

A better way to document a person's skills is to create applications tailored for particular positions. The advantage of having applications specifically for technical positions is obvious, but you can even benefit by getting specific with nontech positions.

"Job-specific applications lay the basis for what the basic qualifications and job expectations are," says Frank Connolly, a labor and employment attorney at Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe's Reston, Virginia, office. These applications also reveal how well potential employees fit those requirements.

It's not difficult to create job-specific applications. A team effort works best; include your lawyer, the person currently doing the job and the supervisor overseeing the position. Assess the needed skills, and include them as detailed questions on the application.

Job-specific applications may also help if you end up firing the employee, says Connolly. "When an employee can't perform the functions they [said] they could in writing, then you have a defense if they sue."


Ellen Paris is a Washington, DC, writer and former Forbes magazine staff writer.


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This article was originally published in the May 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Do You Speak Swahili?.

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