By creating a job application form for prospective employees to fill out, you ensure that you ask the same questions of each prospective employee, and that you thoroughly screen their skills and abilities. Comparison and evaluation of candidates is made more efficient, systematic and fair by using a standard form to collect the information.
Suggested reading: screening applications tips (inc. criteria and checklist)
To avoid giving the appearance of discrimination, application forms should be non-sexist and not ask irrelevant or unnecessary questions. The form should only include questions which relate directly to the position description and person specification and valid predictors of job success.
Questions about health, disability or criminal record may be interpreted as discriminatory if they are not relevant to the job. It is not actually unlawful to ask questions on these matters but if a discrimination claim is made you may be asked to justify the relevance of such information.
Download our job application form template (which you can easily customise for your needs).
It is only appropriate to ask a person to undergo a medical examination if the tasks outlined in the position description pose potential health risks for people with particular health problems (e.g. jobs which involve heavy lifting for people with back injuries).
Give the position description to the doctor
A copy of the position description should be provided to the doctor performing the examination to ensure that any recommendations relate specifically to the job.
If a medical examination reveals a concern about someone’s ability to perform a job, the doctor undertaking the medical examination should (with the consent of the applicant) be required to seek expert advice and assessment from vocational specialists in disability organisations. You may have to consider how changes can be made in the workplace to accommodate the person. Check the Guide to Discriminatory Questions for examples of lawful and unlawful questions that can be asked about an applicant’s medical history.
People with disabilities
When considering job applicants who have disabilities, focus on their abilities, and what they can do to satisfy the requirements of the position. Under discrimination laws, reasonable modifications may have to be made to the work area.
The employer is entitled to make a judgement about whether the modifications, special services or facilities needed for an applicant who has an impairment to be able to work on the farm are reasonable. Employers can also assess whether the safety risk to the person or others is reasonable given the nature of the person’s impairment, the work environment and the tasks as outlined in the position description. Check the Guide to Discriminatory Questions for examples of lawful and unlawful questions that relate to applicants who have disabilities
Criminal record checks
Whilst employers can ask a person if he or she has a criminal record and seek their consent for a criminal record check, employers should only do so when there is a real connection between the essential requirements of a job and a criminal record.
Because criminal records only provide very basic information with no detail about the actual circumstances of the offence they are not usually very helpful in indicating whether there is a connection between the offence and the essential requirements of the job. Check the Guide to Discriminatory Questions for examples of lawful and unlawful questions relating to an applicant’s criminal record.
Therefore, employers who decide to seek a criminal record check should also discuss the matter with the applicant and let them provide any further information they think is relevant. For instance: the applicant’s circumstances and age when the offence took place; whether there was a pattern of offending; the length of time since the offence; whether the offence took place in a work context and whether the personal circumstances of the applicant have changed e.g. previous drug use. References may also be helpful.
Whilst most employment records are exempted from privacy laws, remember that a person’s criminal record is treated as sensitive personal information and is not exempt. Unauthorised disclosure is a breach of the federal Privacy Act. Breaches of privacy in relation to criminal records can complicate relations between an employee and employer, and may lead to claims of discrimination and breaches of the federal Privacy Act, which are costly to defend in terms of time and resources.
The job application form should ask for the names of at least three referees. Referees should include former employers. It is also valuable to ask for referees who are service providers, work colleagues or people who can provide character references. These people will provide a different perspective.
The application form doubles as a test to check the applicant’s ability to read and write, if this is important to the role.
The tools that you use to write an advertisement are the position description and person specification you have created.
When writing an advertisement, think about it from the perspective of a job seeker. He or she may already be employed and need incentives to encourage them to leave their current position.
Suggested Reading: before you start, read a practical guide to designing a powerful job ad (inc. example)
The advertisement should achieve three fundamental objectives.
- Give adequate information about the position and the farm:
- job title and employment status (e.g. Herd Manager, full-time);
- farm and its location;
- duties and responsibilities;
- skills and experience required;
- the remuneration package (pay and other things offered)
- Generate interest, make an impact by:
- using words that will attract candidates;
- making the advertisement look attractive
- Motivate a response by:
- placing the advertisement in the most suitable media;
- selecting the best time to advertise (relevant to the local paper’s situation vacant section);
- providing details of how applicants should get in touch (make sure that the person who is listed as the contact is the right person and is accessible);
- providing a closing date.
As a result of the advertisement, you want candidates to:
- be attracted and interested;
- recognise the basic functions of the job and how it fits into the organisation;
- have a clear idea whether they are suitable and qualified enough for the role; and
- see the job as an improvement on their current position and be motivated to apply
The advertisement must not be false or misleading. Employers can be liable for misleading statements and can be bound by them. Also, it is important to avoid giving any impressions that the person sought is of a particular race, sex or marital status, except when there is a genuine occupational qualification. The content of the advertisement must comply with equal employment opportunity legislation. Use the position description and person specification to ensure that the advertisement matches what the position requires. This will assist in the advertisement not appearing to be discriminatory.
Be prepared to sell the job and make it look attractive – then make sure it turns out to be attractive!
Consider creating a background document
It is often not possible to put all the information into an advertisement. Consider having a background document that highlights many details of the farm such as the production system, operation, farm layout, infrastructure, ownership and current staffing. This can be forwarded to each potential applicant when they make contact. Click here for a background document that you can adapt for your own use.
Think about where the person you want is likely to be looking – which is not necessarily where you would look – for example, noticeboards or newsletters of educational institutions and employment websites. Be aware that fees apply for many forms of advertising. Prices vary from newspaper to newspaper, and website to website. It is recommended that you develop a budget for all the costs of your advertising.
Places to consider advertising are:
- social media – there are dairy industry facebook groups and twitter is quite active
- Australian Job Network agencies (no fees);
- private employment companies that service the dairy industry;
- noticeboards at local shops, agricultural suppliers, sporting clubs;
- the local newspaper and the rural paper in your region;
- dairy company publications; and
- job or industry websites
There may be an opportunity to promote an existing staff member to a vacant position. This has many benefits. The employee already knows the farm and its operational processes and will be effective and productive more quickly than a new employee, the employee’s morale will be boosted, the employer knows more about the candidate, training time will be reduced, it is cost effective and there are no advertising costs. However, the disadvantage is that no new skills or ideas are being brought onto the farm.
Make sure that suitable people within the business know about a position for which you are advertising. Encourage them to apply if you think they are a real prospect.
If a current employee applies for a position, and as an employer you feel they are not appropriate for the position, this situation needs to be handled with care. The employee must receive treatment equal to other applicants and be kept informed of the process they will go through. If the employee is unsuccessful, they may feel unappreciated, resent the new employee and/or may resign. Regular and honest communication with the staff member during the recruitment process is vital to ensure the employee feels valued and clearly understands their role within the business.
Replacing a herd manager
Bob and Julie, who run a 900 cow farm, were replacing their Herd Manager who retired. Grant had worked for them for 2 years supervising assistant farm hands at milkings and was keen to take over the job. Bob was concerned that Grant did not have the experience to be a full time manager but decided to give him a go at a higher level. Bob gave Grant a three month trial period as the Herd Manager with the proviso that he would be given guidance, support and training. Every three weeks, Bob sat down with Grant and went over his performance. Grant had not been used to looking beyond the dairy but this gave him an opportunity to learn much more about overseeing people across the farm. Although Bob and Julie hadn’t initially considered Grant for the position they were pleased they had promoted him.