Résumés are one thing, but filling in question and answer job applications are a whole different matter when it comes to the job hunt. Truth is, while applications may seem informal and cursory, they are anything but. And small omissions or mistakes can be costly in a competitive job arena.
Here’s what you need to know…
The lowdown on the job application process
Chances are if you’re filling in a job application you have either been emailed one after inquiring about a position by phone, or have received one during a visit to a potential employer.
Either way, it may feel like these are just a small technicality and your résumé will speak for itself, but job applications have been carefully designed by the prospective employer to get to the heart of the information they need to hire the right candidate.
As such, they deserve just as much, if not more attention, than that résumé you’ve spent hours perfecting.
So here are our top tips…
If you’re approaching a potential employer to fill out a job application, dress appropriately. Smart workwear is generally the go, like tailored pants and a shirt, or a shirt and skirt.
Ensure you put the same level of care into your appearance when you return the application too.
Go it alone
It’s great to have moral support on the job hunt, but enter premises alone, without your friend or family in tow. If you need hand-holding to get an application form, how will you hold up on the job-front?
It may be the company secretary who hands over the application, but truth is that person at the front desk could be the HR manager or even business owner.
Regardless of who it is, strive to make a good, memorable, and professional impression. Chances are that impression of you will be shared with the relevant authority once you leave the building, no matter who you spoke to.
Don’t fill in the application at the premises
While it may be tempting to fill in the application then and there, the foyer of a corporation is not the best place. There’s good odds you’ll make a mistake because you’re rushing, or distracted, and quite frankly it doesn’t indicate attention to detail.
Instead, take the application home and give it the attention it deserves, with the assistance of a mentor, if required, to help you nail your answers.
Keep it legible
Some applications might be completed online, but others might call for a hand-written response. If it’s the latter keep it legible. Print, don’t use cursive, and ensure your words are written clearly and spaced adequately to read. If you’re running out of space when answering a question, add a page as an attachment.
A rough draft
It’s a great idea to do a rough draft rather than answering questions directly to the page. Then you’ll know how much space you need and ensure there are no errors or sections crossed out in the final application.
It’s an even better idea to make a quick copy of the blank application so you have a fallback in case you make a mistake.
On that note, watch your Ps and Qs and every other letter of the alphabet to make sure your spelling is up to scratch. There is no excuse for spelling or grammar mistakes on a job application.
If you’re not confident, have someone read over your draft, to make sure you’re on the right track.
Imagine yourself in the role
As you answer each question, actively visualise yourself in the role. This helps you work out what they may be looking for in the answers.
Answer every question (and follow the instructions)
Incomplete applications generally go to the bottom of the candidate pile, so ensure you answer every question. Even if you have little previous job experience there are usually soft skills or situations you can highlight.
Meanwhile follow the instructions. If it says fill in your past three jobs from the most recent to the oldest, do it in that order.
Tell the truth
As with your résumé, it’s critical your job application is an accurate representation of who you are and the experience you have. Misrepresenting yourself is poor form, and straight out lying will eventually be found out.
The final word
Job applications are an important element of the job hunt, so give them as much attention as you have given your résumé even if you’ve completed dozens in the past. The right application at just the right time could ultimately land you that job.
The Father James Grant Foundation works with young people providing the workplace skills and confidence they need to land a job in today’s competitive employment landscape.