Although it is vital for job seekers to create a well-written and professional cover letter and resume, it is equally important to hone the skills necessary to complete a job application. Most job applications entail several components, including a job application, cover letter, resume and perhaps other documents that pertain to that specific position, such as academic transcripts, letters of reference, or answers to supplemental questions. Ideally, the information included in your cover letter and on your resume will also be reflected in the actual job application. Your goal is to enable the potential employer to envision you as a potential employee through work history, statements of purpose, acknowledgement of skills and abilities, and specific references. Thus, knowing how to complete a job application in a timely, efficient, and professional manner is a crucial step in any job search.
When beginning the application, it is important to have available information from your past three employers (perhaps more if you have changed jobs frequently within the last five years). Because most job applications entail a work history component, you will likely be expected to provide your employer’s name, address, phone number, contact name of supervisor, and specific dates of employment. Some applications also require a brief summary of the job responsibilities held during that position and specific reason(s) for leaving. Having this information easily accessible can expedite the application process. Some ideas for keeping an organized record of job history include:
Keep the language clear and concise – When employers review applications (online or in print), they are essentially reviewing for consistency and skill level. They want to see that your past jobs have included similar duties to the one for which you are applying; in essence, they want to see that you are highly qualified. Thus, choose specific words that strengthen you as an applicant to describe your past job responsibilities. Words such as managed, supervised, facilitated, created, or developed are strong words to use for job applications.
Always be honest – It is vital that every piece of information provided in the application is completely accurate. This means detailing specific dates and information relating to previous jobs. This also means portraying only the skills and experiences that are true. Remember, it is good to celebrate strengths and skills, but only to the extent they can be validated with proof (ie: work samples, references etc…)
Contact all possible references beforehand – Because most applications require one or two references, it is important to choose people who can truly speak to your ability as an employee. Choose people who have known you for an extended amount of time and who can speak to your strengths and character. Then, be sure to ask your potential references if they are open to serving as references for you.
Proofread – Once completing an application, always take the time to revise for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and/or word choice errors. The application is one of the first opportunities for you to present yourself to a potential employee and perfection, in this case, absolutely counts. If you need a little support, ask a friend, spouse, or instructor to review the application before submitting it.
Allow plenty of time – Some applications have specific deadlines that should be adhered to; however, most jobs have a several week window between which the job opens and closes. Once you begin an application, try not to feel rushed through the process. Take your time, saving your work as you go and completing it only when you feel prepared. Most online applications will provide you with a username and password, allowing you to begin and continue an application at your own pace.
Read the instructions – While many job applications share similarities, each will differ slightly. For example, for jobs in the field of education, applicants often have to submit academic transcripts and/or teaching licensure. For other applications, all that may be required is the actual application and a resume. However, most online applications will require documents to be uploaded and attached at the end. These documents commonly include a resume and cover letter. Before completing or submitting an application, make certain to upload the required documents since most employers will refuse to review incomplete applications.
Be organized – Regardless of the specific position for which you are applying, it is important to demonstrate the universal skill of organization. This skill can first be practiced with organizing all the necessary contact information and paperwork for the application, including names, phone numbers, addresses, and dates of all jobs previously held. Knowing where this information is located and how to most easily access it will expedite the application process.
Have access to reliable technology – Although not all applications require electronic submitting, most do. In fact, most job applications require an online application to be submitted first, followed by the corresponding resume, cover letter, and supplemental materials. Having access to a reliable computer with reliable internet is important as you begin this process. This can be either a home computer or one in a library; however, note that many applications require specific computer programs in order to upload the necessary documents.