Most job applications ask for very basic information: Name, age, address, social security number, criminal history (if there is one), past three-to-five jobs and a few references who can vouch for your character. When looking for a job, you often find yourself filling out a lot of these and it can become pretty tiresome. But it’s important to take each and every application very seriously, and fill it out to the best of your ability. That piece of paper is oftentimes a potential employer’s “first impression” of you, and if it doesn’t stand out then you’ll never have the chance to prove yourself beyond the words you wrote on the application. It’s vital that you put your best foot forward, and you can do that by adhering to the following tips:
- Use blue ink. Most applications are black ink on white paper, so filling out your information in black can make it all blend together. However, most employers don’t appreciate “colorful” pens, and many applications will specifically instruct you to use black or blue ink. In this instance, use blue. It stands out against the black much better.
- Use your best handwriting or have someone else with good handwriting fill it out for you. Every piece of information you provide should be legible and easy to understand. If your handwriting is too difficult to read, most employers won’t even bother to try.
- Some areas on an application simply don’t allow enough room to provide the information it asks for. If this is the case, don’t try to cram a bunch of information into the tiny box. Instead, highlight it with an asterisk (*) with a note that says something along the lines of “see back of application” (if the back is blank and there is room to write) or “see attached paper” (if you need to use a separate piece of paper).
Be specific without being prolix (long-winded or wordy). An employer’s time is valuable and they don’t have time to read an essay. But again, you need to stand out so you do need to make sure that all of your experiences and skills are stated clearly and in detail.
Follow the instructions on the application exactly. Mistakes on even small things, like accidentally putting your last name first when it instructs you to list your first name first, or putting your zip code in the wrong box, can lead to false impressions about your ability to follow instructions. If you make a mistake, use white-out and very carefully correct it or get a new application and start over again.
Include a copy of your resume with your application. Yes, even if you’re just applying for a grocery store position, it’s much more impressive to have a resume in addition to filling out the basic application. A resume does repeat some of the information you will have already provided on the application, but that’s okay. It also allows you to tell your potential employer more about yourself than what the basic application asks for. This is where you can list many additional skills you may have that could have a bearing on your ability to excel in the job you’re applying for.
If you are new to the corporate world of employment and have no work history to speak of to create a classic resume, then write a letter to your potential employer and tell them so. Make a brief introduction; thank them for taking the time to look at your application, and then list any abilities, awards, volunteer work and/or experiences that you feel could help you stand out despite your lack of work history. If you're not sure how to do this, you can follow the same guidelines set for writing a cover letter.
- If you need to provide additional information on a separate piece of paper, it should be typed on plain white paper, not hand-written and not on lined or notebook paper.
- If your application consists of more than one page, do not staple them together. Employers, as a general rule, don’t like applications that are stapled. Use paper clips or, better yet, a folder or sliding bar report cover.
Next Page: The next section of this article illustrates how to write an impressive resume and cover letter that catches the eye of potential employers and features you as a star candidate for the job.