Employers use job application forms as a screening tool to decide who they will interview. You can influence whether or not you eventually get hired by how you fill out the form.
In our online world, filling out a printed job application form by hand can seem like an outdated task. Keep in mind that many employers use printed job application forms for specific reasons. For example, they use them to:
- Standardize the information they gather from every applicant
- Obtain information you might not include in a resumé
- Test your ability to follow instructions
- Assess your attention to detail, such as neatness, spelling and grammar
- Create 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 chance to introduce your skills and experience to the employer. Use the following suggestions to make the most of that opportunity.
- Find out about the company before applying so you know what skills, knowledge and experience they want.
- Bring your resumé. Here is how to format and present a paper resumé:
- Use good-quality 8.5-inch x 11-inch white or slightly off-white paper. Elements such as paper texture or colours and graphics will make your resumé difficult to scan or reproduce accurately.
- Be sure that copies of your resumé are clean, bright, straight, and stain-free.
- Use a paper clip rather than a staple to hold the pages together.
- Always bring your resumé in a 9-inch x 12-inch envelope.
- Make sure your resumé is free of errors. This is a chance to show the employer that you are careful and hardworking.
- Do not sign, handwrite, fold, or bind 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. Also bring some blank pieces of paper.
- Dress as you would for an interview. You’ll make a good first impression. You could be asked for an interview while you’re there.
- Bring your job portfolio with you if you use one. You may 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.
Fill out the form with care
- Ask for 2 copies of the application form. 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. Copy the draft information to the form.
- Read the application form carefully and follow the instructions. Some employers use forms to see how well you 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. Tailor your answer to fit the space. Use a scrap 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, you may have been downsized or let go from a job. When asked to give reasons for leaving, make a brief statement. You could say “job ended,” but 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 the form allows 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. This is especially useful 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 for current salary ranges and other wage information.
Go the distance
- Fill out the Additional Comments section if there is one. It’s your chance to provide more information about your skills, strengths, and accomplishments. You can 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. Ensure 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.
Make the job application form your marketing tool
Filling out a job application form neatly by hand takes patience and attention to detail. These are qualities that most employers value. When your job application form is complete, accurate, and honest, you’ll make the kind of first impression that can get you an interview.