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Tip Sheets

Filling Out Employment Application Forms

A job application form is the screening tool many employers use to decide who they will interview. How you fill out the form can influence whether or not you eventually get hired.

In the online world of the workplace, filling out a printed job application form by hand can seem like an overwhelming and outdated task. Keep in mind that many employers use printed job application forms for specific reasons, such as

  • standardizing the information they gather from every applicant
  • obtaining information you might not include in a resumé
  • testing your ability to follow instructions
  • assessing your attention to detail, such as neatness, spelling and grammar
  • creating a record of your employment history that includes your signature

When you’re applying for a job, the application form is your marketing tool—it gives you a great opportunity to introduce your skills and experience to the employer. Use the suggestions in this tip to make the most of that opportunity.

Getting ready

  • Find out about the company before applying so you know what skills, knowledge and experience they want.

  • Bring your resumé. If you don’t have a resumé, make sure you have the following information
    • start and end dates of past employment, education and training
    • names of past employers, positions and job duties
    • names, positions, telephone numbers, email addresses and postal addresses of three references
  • Bring an erasable blue or black ink pen or a regular pen and correcting fluid, as well as some blank pieces of paper.

  • Dress as you would for an interview. You’ll make a good first impression and you could be asked for an interview while you’re there.

  • Bring your skills portfolio with you if you use one, in case you have an opportunity to show samples of your work.

  • Plan on taking as much time as you need to fill out the form completely and accurately without rushing. If possible, take the application home with you and submit it another day.

Filling out the form

  • Ask for two copies of the application form so you can use one for a draft and one for a final copy. If you can’t get an extra form, use a piece of paper to write a draft and then copy the information to the form.

  • Read the form carefully and follow the instructions. Some employers use application forms to see how well applicants pay attention to detail and follow directions.

  • Write clearly and neatly. Assess how much space you have to answer each question before you start writing and tailor your answer to fit. Use a piece of paper to practice your answers first.

  • Answer all the questions. If questions don’t apply to you, write "not applicable" or "N/A." Never answer "refer to my resumé."

  • Answer truthfully. It’s almost impossible to repair the damage that dishonesty creates.

  • Avoid detailed negative answers. For example, if you were downsized or let go from a job and you’re asked to give reasons for leaving, make a brief statement such as "job ended" and then be ready to provide a complete answer in an interview.

  • List your most recent work experience first, then the work you did before that and so on. Be sure to describe your duties in as much detail as you have room for and emphasize the positive results you achieved.

  • List your most relevant education and training. Include the dates you attended programs, names of the schools and the certificates or diplomas you earned. Include training courses, special awards and volunteer positions you’ve held, especially if they relate to the type of work you’re applying for.

  • Be specific about the type of work you’re applying for. Use your answers throughout the form to show what you can do and the type of work you should be considered for.

  • Give a range or say you’re open to negotiation if you’re asked to provide past salary amounts or current salary expectations. Some employers use this as a screening question, so it’s a good idea to avoid stating a specific amount. Check out Wages and Salaries at OCCinfo for current salary ranges and other wage information.

Going the distance

  • Fill out the Additional Comments section if there is one. It’s your opportunity to provide additional information about your skills, strengths and accomplishments and to tell the employer why you’re a great fit for the position.

  • Double-check the form before you submit it. Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct, your answers are complete, and the overall appearance of the form makes a good impression. Remember to sign the application form.

  • Attach your resumé to the form. Don’t attach copies of your marks, performance appraisals or letters of recommendation unless you’re asked to.

  • Deliver the form in the way the employer prefers. In other words, don’t email it if the employer wants it delivered by hand. If you’re not sure, ask.

Filling out a job application form neatly by hand takes patience and attention to detail, qualities that most employers value. When your job application form is also complete, accurate and honest, you’ll be making the kind of first impression that can get you an interview.

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