The job application is more than a formality or part of office paperwork. The job application and your resume will be evaluated and you will either receive a form letter stating the company is not interested in you, or you will be selected to move onto the next round of the job selection process–the interview. In a competitive job market, the best way to make your application end up in the interview pile is to make it stand out. Standing out means it is legible, complete, concise and intriguing to the reviewer. Use the same action verbs you would use on a resume and include skills, hobbies and awards that make up your unique experience to show what you have to offer this particular company.
Prepare the information ahead of time by updating your resume and printing out a good copy. Type up related job history information that is not typically included on a resume, including the name of a supervisor or human resource contact at your last three to five jobs. Include the phone number on the list. If you do not have the number filed away, find it. Also type up the physical and mailing address of all former employers. Create an additional list of personal and business contacts, not necessarily supervisors, to use as references in addition to the supervisors listed in your work history. Make copies of letters of recommendation from former supervisors or peers. Carry along a copy of any employment awards or any academic awards if you recently finished a degree. Show up for an interview or an appointment half an hour early to give yourself ample time to fill out long applications. Decide ahead of time how you feel about allowing a credit check prior to an interview or to a job offer.
Print and Complete
Read directions carefully. Browse the entire application before writing anything down. This will save you from writing too much information in one area and crossing it out when you see it belongs in another section. If you can, arrange with the receptionist to pick up an application before your interview and bring it home to fill out. Keep in mind some companies will not let you take an application out of the office. Print, do not write, all of the required information on the application. Do no skip any questions, as the potential employer may think you do not pay attention to detail or that you are lazy.
Handle all date inquiries on the application without skipping large periods of time. Women who have taken time off from jobs or have had extended time between jobs to raise their children can write in, “Homemaker,” “Stay-at-home parent” or “Work-at-home parent.” These are all legitimate unpaid jobs to include on the application, and your application is not left with time gaps. There is no need to get too detailed about these gaps on the application, just cover them all. Save the details for the interview, when asked about the time gaps in employment. Nancy Collamer, M.S. of Jobsandmoms.com (see Resources) recommends women who have been away from the workplace include any volunteer information on their resume and list the skills they used in those positions on their resumes. The same applies for job applications.
Leave it Out
Be honest, but do not provide extra information that could be misconstrued. Do not add in any negative information that is not requested. Do not badmouth any former employers or supervisors.
Also don’t include a specific salary on the application, recommends Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D. Applications are used as a screening tool and requesting too much money could land your application in the “no” pile, even if you are qualified for the job. Leave off the names of any direct supervisors who may not give you a good recommendation, if the application is not specific about the business contact. One safe option that will ensure that only the basic information about your previous job is shared, is to include the name and contact information of the Human Resources Department. Leave the colorful pens and pencils at home, and use only a blue or black ink to fill out the application. Be sure to bring a couple of pens along with you, to show you are prepared.