How to Complete a Job Application
If you’ve spent a lot of time creating a resume, you may be surprised or even annoyed that employers also want you to complete an application that asks you for the same information. Unfortunately, this is a frustrating but necessary hoop to jump through if you want to get a job.
Ask your Free to Learn teacher to give you a sample application and help you complete it. Keep this sample application with you when you apply for jobs. That way, you’ll always have the information you need right at your fingertips.
Here are some tips for filling out applications:
Use a computer if you can. Some jobs will give you the option of completing the application on a computer or printing it out and completing it by hand. If you can, use the computer. This will make it easier for you to make the application look neat and professional, and it will make it easier for the employer to read and understand the application.
Ask for two copies of the application. We will say it over and over again – your application should be neat and clean. If you have to hand write an application, make sure you get at least two copies. That way, you can use one application as your rough draft and one as your final version.
If you have to hand write an application, use print. Sometimes, you will have no choice but to complete an application by hand. That’s fine – just be sure to print neatly and clearly. Cursive writing might be pretty, but it can be tough to read.
Use black ink. Although you might prefer blue or red, this is not the time to express yourself with your choice of ink color. Black ink is easier to read and more professional than any other color.
Read the entire application before you begin. Mistakes look terrible on applications. The last thing you want is to turn in something with a lot of scratch outs on it. If you read through the application first, you’ll know what information to put where.
Neatness counts! Make sure your application is neat and clean. This application is going to represent you to the employer. You want it to make a good impression.
Be positive. There are often two ways to look at things that you will have to reveal on your application, and you want to look at your experiences and education in a positive way — and present them in a positive way to the employer. For example, you may feel embarrassed that you have a GED instead of a high school diploma, but that is just negative thinking. Instead, feel proud that you worked hard to earn that GED — and understand that having a GED makes you a more attractive candidate than someone who doesn’t have one.
Avoid giving negative information. If there are general questions you would rather not answer on the application because they are personal in nature or because you think they might hurt your chances, don’t leave the question blank or lie. Instead, write “I’m willing to discuss this in more detail at an interview.” Be prepared to give a positive answer during the interview. But always be honest.
Answer the felony question honestly. Almost all job applications will ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony. Because most employers will run a background check before or after they hire you, they will find out the true answer anyway, so you should be honest on the application – otherwise, even a felon-friendly employer may fire you for lying. Read the question carefully and answer it honestly – then write that you would like the opportunity to discuss it in more detail at an interview. If the conviction was minor and a long time ago, you might say those things on the application and then write that you’d like the opportunity to discuss the issue in more detail at an interview.
- Be careful with juvenile convictions! In most instances, juvenile convictions are sealed and will not appear on a background check. But not always. This is why you need to know what is on your rap sheet. If your juvenile conviction doesn’t appear, then you have a choice of whether to be forthcoming on an application. What you do will depend on the nature of the conviction and the job for which you are applying.
Include volunteer activities. If you do not have much work experience, but you have volunteered at church or your child’s school, list those volunteer activities as work experience. Volunteer activities demonstrate important work skills that employers should know about.
Think broadly about education. If you do not have formal education, but you have completed training programs, make sure those programs are somewhere on your application. Sometimes, there will be a space for them, but other times, you will have to list them in the “education section.”
Include Department of Corrections work if it applies. You might want to forget about everything that you did in prison, but if you worked while you were there, that experience might make you attractive to an employer. For example, if you worked in the prison library, and you are applying for a job at your local library branch, that prison library experience is something you should be proud of – and something you should highlight on your application. List the job, and then under “employer,” write “DOC.”
Include Department of Corrections training programs. If you completed any training programs while in prison, you should list them on your application, especially if they relate directly to the job that you are applying for.
Answer all questions. If you leave something blank, the employer won’t know if you are trying to hide something or if you missed the question by accident. Answer every question. If a question does not apply to you, write “not applicable.” If you are unsure about the answer to a question, write “unsure.” If you would like to discuss a question in more detail, write “willing to discuss in an interview.”
Be honest. Giving false information will almost always get you fired when your dishonesty is discovered.
Come prepared. Have all the information you may need – including dates, names, addresses, and phone numbers – written down ahead of time so that you can completely and quickly fill in the application. Bring your Free to Learn sample application with you.
Be sure your spelling and grammar are correct.
Under “Position Desired,” do not write “open” or “anything.” Write the position you are applying for. If you are applying for any openings at the company, name one or two positions that you are qualified for.
Don’t name a salary. Under “Salary Desired,” write “open” or “negotiable” – or state a wide salary range. Salary is better handled at the end of the interview or after a job offer.
Be prepared with good references. Before you start applying for jobs, you should know two or three people whom an employer can call for information about you. If possible, these people should be professional references or have some sort of connection with the employer. If you do not have professional references, then use personal ones – but try to use people who are themselves employed and impressive. Be sure to spell their names correctly. Give accurate addresses and phone numbers. If the employer has trouble getting in touch with a reference, she may simply throw out your application. Always ask permission before listing anyone as a reference.
Include interests and hobbies – if they apply. Although the employer is not going to want to know every little detail about your life, if you have any interests and hobbies that directly relate to the job, then find a place to include them on the application. For example, let’s say you are applying at a bakery as a counter clerk. If you have a love of baking, then you should include it on the application.
Write additional comments. Sometimes, an application will have an open-ended question like “please give additional information that we should know about you.” This is not the place to give personal information unrelated to the job. Rather, this is the place to write why you want this particular job with this particular employer.
Don’t forget to sign the application! Be sure to use your full legal name.
Ask about the selection process. If you can, ask about the section process when you turn in your application. You want to get a sense of how many people they are interviewing and when they expect to make a hiring decision. Knowing these things can help you deal with anxiety about hearing from the employer. For example, if you know that they will not be deciding for several months, then you won’t spend every day hoping your phone will ring.