4 Tips on Filling Out a Job Application

You’ve polished your resume (and sent it out to many prospects), had your suit dry-cleaned, bought some real leather shoes, and practiced your firm handshake. Sounds like you’re all ready to hit the ground running on the job interview process. And then it happens! You get an email saying that Company A (one of your first choices) would like to schedule an interview with you, but first…what’s this? An attached job application? What the heck? Why would you need to fill out a job application when they already have your resume?

It’s not uncommon for companies (especially large corporations in industries like banking, aerospace, and insurance) to require applicants to fill out job applications in addition to submitting resumes. This many sound redundant, but they do have their reasons.

First off, companies use a job application as a screening process. In addition to having the right education and experience many companies also have their own set of requirements in order to be hired. For example, some employees in the aerospace industry must get a Department of Defense security clearance in order to work on government projects. The Human Resources department can ascertain by asking a few key questions if the applicant will pass a DOD security clearance and, if so, how quickly.

Second, companies use applications to establish consistency across job candidates, because let’s face it everyone writes their resume a little differently. For example, some people create a chronological work history resume, some a functional resume, and some emphasis education. By requiring everyone to fill out the same job application a company gets the same information across the board.

And even though filling out a job application may sound brainless, you’d be surprised how many people screw it – and thus eliminate their chances of getting a job interview. So to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, here are four job application tips to consider.

1) Don’t Ignore The Darn Thing

A common assumption that applicants make is that if they submit a resume they don’t have to fill out a job application, even if the company emails them one in advance of an interview. Wrong! Not filling out the job application is a deal breaker. If the company emails a candidate a job application and the candidate doesn’t complete it and return it by the designated date (which is usually prior to the interview), then the candidate is out of the running. So if someone sends you a job application, fill it out and return it as indicated.

2) Follow Directions

Complete the application exactly as asked. Don’t leave sections blank and don’t offer more verbiage than required. If you don’t have access to some of the information they want (and can’t get it before the due date), then explain why. And if there’s a section that doesn’t pertain to you then write “not applicable” or “N/A”. If you’re asked to fill the application out at the job interview, come prepared with the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of at least three work-related references and two family members not living with you, even if you already put all that info on your resume.

Fill the application out in ballpoint pen (blue or black ink only), and not pencil, Sharpie®, crayon, charcoal, paint, or any other weird writing utensil.

Take your time; don’t rush through it just to get it done. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are essential, so use a dictionary when in doubt (download one on your smartphone ahead of time, that way it’s always with you.) Think of the job application as a test. Go over it before you turn it in to check your answers.

3) Tailor Your Responses

There’s nothing wrong with tailoring your responses to fit the job (that’s why it’s good to take your time when formulating your answers), as long as you’re being honest. You do the same thing when you write a resume (make the resume fit the job), so you might as well do the same on a job application. Just make sure you don’t stretch the truth so far that it no longer resembles the truth.

4) Don’t Pick a Number

If the job application asks for a salary request on your part, avoid an exact amount. Instead, give a range or write “negotiable”. If you’ve already been in the work force you can tell them what you were making at your last job, but don’t lie! It’s so easy for them to follow up with your former employer. Remember, companies use job applications to weed out people. You don’t want a possible employer to eliminate you because you picked a salary out of the company’s price range (or worse yet, because you fibbed about your previous salary).

Even though filling out a job application is an easy task, you mustn’t forget that it’s also an important one. The job market in this economy is highly competitive, so you don’t want a little thing like a job application to hold you back. Instead use the job application as yet another tool to show what a great asset you are to any company lucky enough to have you.

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