Job applications are required for many reasons. Yes, you have spent a lot of time writing, reviewing and revising your resume and you have done a ton of homework in preparing for certain –difficult- interview questions. It is easy to blow off the application process as redundant, but this is not wise, and it can harm your ability to land a job.
Employers, even those who accept resumes, will always ask candidates to fill out an application during the hiring process. Don’t haphazardly fill this document out; doing so has the potential to knock you out of the running for a particular job.
Filling out an application, as redundant as it may seem, is an important step of the job search cycle. Employers require it because they:
1) Want you to verify the accuracy of your information
2) Want you to give permission (in writing) to have references checked.
3) Want a common form so that they can easily compare your job qualifications to other candidates’
4) Want a streamlined and consistent format to find certain pieces of information, since resumes come in all shapes, styles and (even) colors.
One of the most common job application mistakes is leaving sections of the application blank. This is not acceptable. Every question on a job application has been put there for a reason. The reason may not be obvious, but if the question is on the application, the employer expects it to be answered. If you do not do so, you are sending your potential employer a message that you cannot follow (or refuse to follow) instructions. Never good.
Some of other major mistakes in filling out an application include:
1) Misspelling – Employers typically do not hire people who cannot spell correctly. If you cannot spell, why would you be picked to do anything more complex?
2) Not being honest – this is especially important when filling out the reason for leaving your previous job. It is important to be truthful, but tactful. Under no circumstances should you lie. All applications should contain a section requiring a signature guaranteeing that all the information you provided is accurate (i.e. truthful). The consequence for dishonesty being discovered is termination.
3) Being too cluttered – Explanations can require space, but generally you do not want to take up more room than what has been allotted on the application form. Think hard what you would want to explain and then condense. Once you get an interview you can explain yourself further.
4) Not being neat – Do not fill out your application while eating or drinking. Wrinkles, folds and stains all indicate sloppiness in work habits. It can also keep you from being contacted. One little smear or greasy fingerprint on a phone number or email address ends the process for you.
5) Not making sure everything is legible – Sure you know that your phone number has a “7” in it, but if everyone else thinks that it is a “9” your application process has just been shut down.
Preparing to fill out an application is not hard, nor is it particularly time-consuming. Simply grab a notebook to use as a fact sheet while filling out the applications. In it, record job duties, job titles, addresses, supervisors’ names, phone numbers, etc. Remember, some of these have not been recorded on your resume, so using a “fact sheet” can keep you from leaving out some needed information.
Verify everything, including start/end dates, to ensure consistency between your resume and your application. In just the same way that your resume represents you, so does your application. So spend the time to makes sure that this part of the application process represents you accurately and well.
And, finally, do not forget to sign the application at the bottom.
NOTE: A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.