Application Etiquette

by Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM

Regardless of how you come to the attention of a prospective employer - letter/resume, college placement office, online job board, company website, networking, referrals, or just dropping into a personnel office - sooner or later every interested employer is going to ask you to complete a company application form.

Lengthy job application forms may seem to request information already supplied, but much can hinge on the way they are handled. Since virtually every job applicant comes armed with a resume providing pertinent information about themselves, filling out an application seems like a waste of time. But, most companies require application forms and, since you can't avoid completing them, you might as well learn to accept them and do them well.

There are good reasons why companies require applications. Most companies feel that even though you have presented them with a resume, you should fill out their standardized form - which is designed to obtain information the company needs to know.

It is used as a screening device, but more importantly, it is used as part of the permanent employee record as a legal document. It protects the employer in the case of discrimination or falsification on the part of the employee, which can be grounds for dismissal.

Applications can also be related to expenditure approvals connected with employment interviews. If a Human Resources Director is required to fly in out-of-town applicants, it is easier to secure these approvals with a signed application form, proving the person was at the interview.

Moreover, applications may be used instead of resumes to provide a preliminary evaluation of your abilities as a potential employee. In the area of screening, a formal application blank provides a simple test of your ability to spell, write, and give factual answers to questions.

Following are some basic rules when confronted with an application blank.

  • Avoid completing an application form in an employer's office, unless you are there for an interview. Ask to bring it in the next day or send it back later in the week by mail.

  • Don't touch an application blank with pen, pencil or typewriter until you have made a photocopy. Work on the copy and keep the original clean until you are ready to fill it out in final form.

  • Read every question carefully before answering and follow all instructions to the letter. The way you fill out the form, no matter how mundane, can speak volumes about you. It represents you to people who have never met you. If it is untidy, incomplete or inaccurate, you will be judged accordingly.

  • Fill out all blanks on the application. Leaving any space blank can result many times in disqualification for the position. If the question asked is not applicable to your field, write in the response "N/A", but do not leave it blank.

  • Be extremely careful with facts; they probably will be checked out. Make sure that information on your application does not contradict anything on your resume.

  • When asked questions such as date you can start, salary range, etc. phrases such as "Open" or "Negotiable" are completely acceptable. This allows you to not be eliminated prior to finding out about the position and speak- ing to the Human Resources Director about specifics.

  • Most importantly, remember to sign your name!

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