Successfully finishing a job application can be a difficult task for anyone competing in the modern job market. Today, the majority of applications are completed online. Knowledge of best practices for completing an application for employment is important for a successful and easier job search. If you have an updated résumé or if there is completed information from an application online in the past available, you have resources on hand that can be used for the completion of employment application questions. It is imperative to ensure that your job application is fully updated to your current references, educational background, and employment history. Having a completed and updated résumé on hand is highly recommended for the completion of a job application.
An optimal résumé has good legibility, grammar, and writing quality. When completing a paper application, it is always important to make sure responses are clearly written because sloppy or erratic handwriting does not look professional to a prospective employer. Likewise, make sure to write in complete sentences in the completion of employment prompts and questions. Always proofread your work to ensure that you have started sentences with capital letters and that you have completed them with proper punctuation. Forgetting to write an address properly or failing to spell a name correctly can occur when an application, online or handwritten, is rushed. Take time to work on questions and answer them one at a time without running through them to get them done. It is highly recommended to always attach a résumé to your job application. However, do not avoid the completion of a job application by simply writing “see résumé” on the application itself. It is good practice to ensure the full completion of the application and attach a résumé to it, if one is available, for a professional and comprehensive submission. Likewise, try to avoid leaving question fields blank. If a question is not applicable it is often recommended to write “N/A” or “not applicable” rather than leave it entirely unanswered, according to Dr. Randall S. Hansen.
A difficult question that often comes up in the completion of online job applications is the question of salary requirements. It is always preferable to answer this question by writing “negotiable,” if you can. Placing emphasis on a personal range for your salary can often limit hiring in the initial job application process, so it is best to try to avoid any direct demands. However, a number of internet applications cannot be submitted without a number written in this category. There are a number of tips to consider in this case. According to career expert Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, one should consider salary averages for a prospective job. She recommends that you can think of an ideal salary requirement for the job in question and the level of pay that would be inappropriate to you. An average number in the middle of this range could be an appropriate fit that a manager could potentially consider, while giving room for it to go up in the future. One can also research averages for the job in question online for a prospective wage. Some sites to figure out an approximate average salary for your prospective job are JobSearchIntelligence.com, PayScale.com, and Salary.com. Likewise, Schwerdlin recommends putting commentary in your cover letter that salary requirements are negotiable should you be unable to place “negotiable” as an answer to a salary requirement question.
Employment History and References
A central aspect to the job application process is filling out employment history. Workforce journalist Olivia Johnson recommends that individuals who have never been employed should consider accentuating volunteer or community work, education, and references on a résumé and job application. This experience should be honest; one should not report that an experience in volunteering was a salaried career. However, an application that honestly cites a valid skill set and experience in community service, volunteering, and other related experiences can help you land your first paid job.
In the event that you were fired from a prior job, it is important you do not lie nor reveal too much negative information. In the completion of an application, if you are being asked why a previous employment did not work out simply put “job ended” or “seeking a better fit” for your response without elaboration. Ensure that the dates you worked at the job are accurate in case of a background check. Be truthful in your responses without giving away any negative information.
Ensure that when you are completing job histories you accurately reflect your recent job history. It is also recommended that you focus and accentuate your work history and skills toward the position you are applying for. Ensure sure your employment background is thorough, relevant, accurate, and recent. If you feel like you would like to leave a previous job experience off a résumé seriously, consider that decision in light of gaps of employment and your current work experience. Serious gaps in employment are to be avoided as much as possible on a job application.
References are also an aspect of your job application that you want to ensure are professional and relevant. Make sure you have the full name, company, business address, and contact information, including telephone and email, of your references. Make sure to tell your references ahead of time that you will be including them in your job application. It is always advisable that professional references are prioritized over personal ones, according to Elizabeth Hoyt at Monster College.
Employment questionnaires on online applications can be long, but all questions need to be read and answered accurately. Mark Applegate at Chron notes, “Answer the questions honestly and consistently, but be careful. Answer the spirit of the question. For example, if asked whether you have ever stolen an item from an employer, the question is seeking to learn whether you steal, not whether you accidentally took home a company pencil and returned it the next day. Do not overthink the questions.” Utilize common sense and ensure you are putting forth a positive image of yourself as a prospective employee. Many questionnaires have a “lie score” for employers that measure how consistently you are answering questions. For example, questions about current time management and lateness are looked at jointly, so ensure that you are answering questions about skill sets consistently.
In the Case of Criminal Background Concerns
Step Ahead, a career planning organization based in Minnesota, offers some tips for those completing job applications with criminal history. Step Ahead offers the following advice:
“Many applications still have a question that asks about past convictions for felonies and/or misdemeanors. When answering this question on applications or in job interviews, make sure to do so honestly. Use the most effective wording possible, but don’t get into too much detail. Do NOT write “will explain at interview” with no other details. Employers will assume the worst about the offense(s). Tell employers that you are eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and/or Federal Bonding. Do some research on these two programs so you can talk about them with employers. Ask for an opportunity to discuss your circumstances.”
For information on state laws concerning employment rights in criminal background cases and employment opportunities for offenders, consider the following links:
State Laws on Use of Arrests and Convictions in Employment
Jobs for Felons, Felon Friendly Employment
The Application Process
Putting out job applications can be stressful and tiring, but still, submit as many applications as you can when unemployed. Finding relaxation techniques, keeping your concentration, and lowering stress are important for the job search. Make sure that this process is not rushed. Set aside time to complete applications. Oftentimes, it works to view the job search the same way you would studying or completing schoolwork. Find ways to organize your time and develop methods to help you relax and concentrate to ensure that you fill out applications promptly. Remember, you can do it—you can find a job—regardless of your work history or background, if you are willing to set your mind to it.
By Eric Hollenbeck