Spice Up Your Application Forms: Add a Sales Sheet

Many firms use application forms for walk-in applicants. Unfortunately, most application forms were designed in the dark ages. Most current application forms are intended to be primarily used as assessment tools; however, they drastically need a second element…a sales element! So if you want to dramatically improve the number of application forms that actually get completed, attach a “sales sheet” to your application forms.

What’s Wrong With Application Forms?

The number of application forms that are picked up by potential applicants but never actually turned in is often well over 50%. Why are these applications never turned in? There are a variety of reasons for the low turn-in rates of applications. Some of these reasons include:

  • There is no information to excite the candidate about the job or the company.
  • The form itself is long and tedious to fill out.
  • The form requires the applicant to remember specific addresses and phone numbers, which often means they need to take the form with them (resulting in a lower response rate).

Applications Don’t Excite or Answer Their Questions

Potential applicants for a job want to know two basic things:

  1. Can I do the job?
  2. Do I want the job?

Unfortunately, application forms fail to provide the applicant with any information about either of these two questions. If you want the applicant to spend time filling the form out accurately, you need to do some point-of-purchase (POP) advertising to excite the applicant.

POP Advertising for Applicants: Can I Do the Job?

If you want to excite potential applicants when they pick up an application form, the best approach is to attempt to answer both of the above questions.

Let’s look at the first one: can I do the job? Because application forms can fit many different jobs (a mistake in its own right), it’s often hard to list the skill requirements for each different job on the application form. One solution to that is to offer a computer kiosk (or even a hard-copy book) that allows the applicant to search the different job requirements. This information can help them to find out if their skill set makes it likely that they’ll have a reasonable opportunity for getting the job.

A second approach is to list the essential competencies that the firm expects for all jobs on a placard right behind the pile of applications. The placard lets the applicants immediately see what competencies you are seeking. This placard can also list the average amount of time it generally takes to hear back from the firm. This can let the applicant know that they will get a quick response to their application (which can also serve to discourage them from applying to other firms). By helping the applicant understand what skills are necessary you will also eliminate many unqualified applicants through self-selection. You also help build the confidence of the qualified applicants by letting them know that they have a reasonable chance of succeeding.

POP Advertising for Applicants: Do I Want the Job?

The second element of the POP advertising should be the process of selling the applicant on the company and the job. The best way to do that is to attach a “sales sheet” to each application. The sheet can be customized to each individual store, facility or location. A great “sell sheet” can have any of the following:

  1. Examples of your excellent people practices
  2. Descriptions of your flexible schedule options
  3. Comparisons of how your firm is superior to the average in your industry in benefits and pay
  4. Descriptions of promotional and growth opportunities
  5. A list of any awards or recognition that your firm has received
  6. Some quotes from your own employees typifying the fun and excitement of the job
  7. A web address where more information can be obtained

This “sales sheet” can be stapled to each application or it can be posted on a placard right behind the applications.


Many firms (in particular retail firms) are arrogant in that they assume that their image is enough to get potential applicants to fill out an application form. However, with just a little effort, managers can add spice to the application form and dramatically increase both the quality and the number of applications they receive. Retail managers know the value of point-of-purchase advertising when it comes to selling products, but for some reason, they seem to forget it when it comes to recruiting. It’s time to change that and put some pizzazz in application forms!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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