It’s no secret that when it comes to employment today, the stakes are high. The difference between who gets a job and who doesn’t can often depend on paperwork, particularly your job application.
The truth is that your job application is your first opportunity to make an impression — so you want to make a good one.
Team Clark consulted some experts to find out what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for when they view your job application.
How to Fill Out a Job Application
Below, you can see that the numbered sections are what you’ll find on a typical job application. In this article, we’re going to show you how to fill out a job application the right way, step by step, so you can get hired.
We’ll go over everything from how to list your work history and skills — and when you should tell your prospective employer you’re ready to start.
If you’re going to be filling out an application on paper, make sure you have a black or blue pen. You also want to make sure you’re well rested and have a positive attitude. Let’s begin…
1. Personal Information
Having accurate contact information is arguably the most important thing on a job application. It typically consists of:
- First and last name
- Email address
- Phone number
- Mailing address
You can have all the qualifications in the world, but if your email address or phone number is wrong, you may never hear back from that employer.
Tip: Go over your information at least three times before submitting your job application to ensure it’s accurate.
2. Job Skills
One of the main reasons you’re even applying for the job is because you believe you have the skills for it. But your job application should help prove it.
When you list your job skills, your objective should be to sum up the best of your abilities in as concise a manner as possible.
“When you summarize your past experiences and skills, you are guiding the reader to explicitly know what kind of role you are seeking and to look for demonstrated proof in the body of your job application that proves you are all that you claim to be,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.”
When it comes to summing up your education, employers are checking that you have relevant qualifications related to degree(s) and fields of study. You’ll typically list the following:
- Institution name
- Years completed
- Grade point average
- Major or degree
- Graduate or not
Some applications will also ask for the city and state of the school. If it’s relevant to the job, you may also want to list any awards or accolades you received, if there’s room for it.
The important thing is that this information be correct and verifiable: The education part of a job application is no place for embellishment!
4. Work Experience
Obviously, your work history will play a huge part in whether you’re fit for the job. But what are employers looking for specifically?
“Employers want to know that your experience is current, relevant, and consistent,” says Cohen. “They want you to demonstrate that you can hit the ground running immediately and contribute to the bottom line. They also want to be aware of any red flags that could signal a problem, such as frequent movement or short stints with lots of gaps.”
5. Work Start Date
Now that you’ve listed your work experience, the next step is to disclose when you’ll be available to start work.
Many job applicants get tripped up when trying to figure out what to put as their first day of availability to start work.
Should you put “immediately,” or “any time?” If you’ve communicated to the hiring manager or recruiter the earliest you can begin employment, what you put down on your job application should be in harmony with that.
A typical practice in the workplace is to start a position two weeks after you’ve accepted the job. That way, you’re demonstrating that you’ve given your previous employer the customary two weeks notice.
But no matter what date you write down on your job application, again, make sure it’s consistent with what you’ve verbally communicated to your prospective employer.
Another part of the job application that can stump a lot of applicants are the references. So what exactly are recruiters looking or?
“Recruiters are looking for references between a mix of supervisors/managers and colleagues,” says Brea Shamsid-Deen, a technical recruiter for the PIC Group in Atlanta, Georgia, “normally from the same type of industry as the job you are applying for.”
Here’s an example: “If you are applying for a construction job, a work reference from your side business as a DJ is not what we are after. We want to hear from someone who has been your boss and who can vouch for your work ethic and skills,” she says.
Once you’re done with your application, look over it one more time for accuracy, grammar and punctuation. Make sure everything you write is legible.
If you want to advance past the job application phase and score an interview, the bottom line is that you’ll also need patience.
It’s common for many positions to be delayed or even for the hiring process to stop and be restarted due to technicalities that have nothing to do with you. So, don’t get frustrated if you don’t hear back immediately after you submit an application.
Want more tips on how to land a job? Follow Team Clark’s step-by-step guide to resume success!