The nuts and bolts of the job application |

The nuts and bolts of the job application

Gloria Sinibaldi

A job application is your calling card. It says, “Look at me!” A potential employer will use it as a first-round screening tool. With careful contemplation and simple preparation, you can reap rewards. Stay in the running. Think of the application as the key that opens the door. With these few practical tips, you can sail through this process and present yourself as a keeper.

First, it’s important to know that a job application is a legal document. Once signed, you’re stating it is factual and correct. By comparison, your resume is not a legal document. However, falsifying either could end your employment even after you’ve been hired. A recent case in point is Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, who was forced to resign after he “padded” his education on his resume. He held the position for six months prior to the discovery. This is a common, but costly, mistake. Simply stated, don’t do it!

The basics

Be legible. Using a computer is ideal. If you are writing freehand, print neatly with a black or dark blue pen. Check your spelling. Make sure your printer has an ample supply of ink. Use standard white paper. Make a copy for your files.

Be complete. Read the application thoroughly before beginning. Leave no blank spaces. Some questions may not pertain to you. Mark them with a small neat line for acknowledgment. N/A is also acceptable; it’s a matter of preference. Be attentive to details.

Be practical. Keep necessary information handy. Carry a cheat sheet with you. Stash one in a drawer at home; know where it is. It should contain the names, addresses and phone numbers of former employers (10 to 15 years back), dates of employment, job duties, personal and professional references, including titles and detailed contact information, school dates and data and military service information, if applicable.

Be considerate. Ask references for permission to use them. Keep them informed about potential jobs. Do not surprise them, as it may not work in your favor. Being informed will better enable them to help you.

Be Focused. “Any” is not an acceptable answer. Know the job title for which you are applying. Target the job you want by matching the desired skills with your previously proven skills. Let the job description be your guide. Never take the generic approach.

Be reflective and proactive. Each job requires a reason for leaving. Avoid red-flag words like fired or quit. If you were fired, don’t dwell on it. Stay positive. See it as a learning experience. What did you learn? Was there misconduct? If you received unemployment compensation, the state ruled there was no misconduct. Don’t complain about former employers. Be ready to answer difficult questions by reflective contemplation. This will prepare you for the interview.

Some suggested ways to state your reason for leaving:

– Job ended (used for quit or fired; be ready to discuss)

– Reduction in Force

– Economy Slowed

– Family needed me (no longer an issue)

– Health or injury (no longer a problem)

– Career change

– Laid off

– Seeking advancement

– Relocation

– Temporary

– Business closed

The salary requirement should be left “open.” If asked for specifics, consider providing a range. Know your industry’s pay scale. To research wage information, visit

Dates for education don’t belong on your resume, but you’ll need them for your application. If you’ve attended multiple schools, list them if space allows. If not, list the one from which you graduated. If you didn’t graduate, list the last school you attended. Include degrees, certificates and GEDs. Have your academic record, including credits earned, at hand. Don’t be shy about accomplishments and extracurricular activities. Blow your own horn.

The felony question can be problematic for some. Employers often check backgrounds. Omitting or lying isn’t wise. Some employers hire ex-felons and may, in some cases, receive tax credits. The job for which you are applying is key. It’s important to apply for jobs that are unrelated to your felony conviction. Make sure you understand the questions. Arrest or conviction? In some states, including California, it’s illegal to require information regarding an arrest. Does a particular timeframe apply? Were you a minor? If so, your records may be sealed. Can you expunge your record? Check this out beforehand. Communication, sincerity and most importantly, honesty, are the rule.

Lastly, validate your application with a signature and date.

Happy job hunting!

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