Filling out an application is the first step in the job application process, but it’s also one of the most crucial. An application is the first impression you’ll give your potential employer, so you want to make a statement to catch the hiring manager’s attention. In this article, we review how to fill out a job application effectively.
How to fill out a job application
Follow these steps to fill out your next job application properly:
- Read the application before filling it out.
- Take your time.
- Answer completely and truthfully.
- Include your resume.
- Fill out job information chronologically.
- Put in the extra effort.
- Research your salary.
1. Read the application before filling it out
Before you start to fill out a job application, read through it first. This will give you all the information you need to complete it to the best of your ability. Many companies allow you to fill out their applications online. However, some jobs still have paper applications that you will need to pick up in person.
If filling out a paper application, ask for two copies of it so you can use one for a draft before filling out a final one. This will give you two chances to write the correct information and make sure your final draft is as neat as possible. If they do not give you two copies of the application, write down the information you will be filling out on a piece of paper first, and copy that over.
2. Take your time
While completing a job application may seem like a small task, think of it instead as your first opportunity to show an employer how much you care about the job. This is especially true for positions that require a lot of verbal and written communication.
While completing an application online often looks neater than a physical application, be careful about misspellings and grammatical errors. Always read through your application several times before submitting it. If your application is well-written and accurate, the interviewer will be more likely to view you as a viable candidate for the job. An application that was typed carefully and consistently will stand out positively to employers.
3. Answer completely and truthfully
There may be some questions that do not apply to you, which is fine. However, you might want to consider filling in the spaces with something like “N/A” or “not applicable,” which demonstrates that you still read through the application thoroughly.
Always answer the questions on your application honestly. Many employers will perform a background check when they get serious about hiring someone. Even if your employer doesn’t, they may still discover your work history after you have been employed. To avoid any misunderstandings after gaining employment, stay honest about your education, employment history and criminal background.
4. Include your resume
Filling out a job application is different than providing your resume. These are separate components of the application process, but they are both equally important. The application itself is a basic screen that lets employers see if they should continue looking into you as a potential employee. Your resume gives you the chance to go into more detail about all your skills and previous experience.
If you are turning in a paper application, the employer may ask you to print out your resume and attach it. When applying online, read the instructions for turning in your resume carefully. They may tell you to copy and paste it into the form they provide, send it in an email or upload it as an attachment. When uploading it, see if there are any file size limits, and compress it if necessary.
5. Fill out job information chronologically
When giving your work history, list your most recent job first. Some applications will only have room for three or four previous jobs, so you will not need to list more regardless of your work history. If you don’t have enough previous work experience to fill out all the lines, list “N/A” in the blank space. Write as much detail as you can about the responsibilities you held at each previous job, and make sure to highlight any positive results you achieved.
If there is room, you may also want to list any relevant training and education you have acquired. This may include schools you went to, certifications or degrees you achieved or programs you attended. Try to add anything extra you’ve done to further your career on your application.
6. Put in the extra effort
When filling out a job application, you may sometimes see a section that allows you to add additional comments. Many people skip this, but this is your chance to stand out from the rest of the competition. You can view this as your opportunity to give even more information about your strengths, skills and accomplishments that you couldn’t list earlier.
For example, you can state how you excel at interpreting data from spreadsheets, describing sample projects you have completed in the past. If you were promoted in a previous job, take the time to highlight it to increase your chances of impressing your potential employer.
If you come across a question asking why you want to work for a particular company, carefully think about your answer. This is the time to show off your skills. Research the position more and then list the skills you have that apply. Think about what difficulties the company might be facing and explain how your experience could help address them.
Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
7. Research your salary
It’s important to research reasonable salary expectations if you come across this question on your application. One way to answer this question is to give a range so they know you are not set on one number. If you can, it is not a bad idea to mention you are open to negotiation. Most importantly, you should always research the position online to find out what the average salary is both nationwide and in your area. This is the easiest way to make sure you are asking for a reasonable figure. Some companies will ask what your previous salaries were, so answer honestly.
Job application tips
Here are a few additional tips to consider when completing an application.
Proofread your application
Before you upload your application, proofread it to make sure you catch any errors. You can also choose to have someone else read over it for you to provide a different perspective. Make sure you spelled all your information correctly, detailed your work history accurately and corrected any typos. To be safe, run it through a spell checker online so it can catch items you may not have noticed.
Many employers filter job applications through an applicant tracking system that looks for specific keywords. To find out which keywords might stand out in your application, look for other job postings for the same position you’re interested in, and note words or phrases that come up often.
Keep your social media profiles professional
Employers may observe a candidate’s web presence when considering them for a position. When actively applying to jobs, make sure your social media profiles are appropriate or consider setting them to private.