When you're applying for a job, an employer may want more information than just a copy of your resume and cover letter. The company may request what is known as "supporting documentation" to complete your application. Knowing what to include and how to include it will help you stay in the running for the role.
What Are Supporting Documents?
Supporting documentation for a job application can include a resume, a cover letter, educational transcripts, writing samples, Veterans' Preference documents, portfolios, certifications, a reference list, letters of recommendation, and other documentation as specified in the job posting. The information that is required varies depending on the job and the employer's hiring requirements.
Generally, employers will specify which documents they would like you to include with your application.
If not, feel free to ask the hiring manager or HR representative what kind of supporting documentation to send. Be sure to follow all their instructions about what to send and how to send it. (For example, official transcripts would usually be sent directly from the school or institution concerned.)
Why Do Employers Request Supporting Documentation?
Getting supporting documentation from candidates helps companies evaluate applications. For many employers, a resume (or a resume and cover letter) provides all the information they require. However, other employers may need more information to determine which applicants they will interview and eventually hire.
The reason for requesting information is to get a complete picture of you as a candidate, or to confirm the details listed in your resume or job application.
For instance, requiring a transcript as supporting documentation allows employers to confirm that you graduated, as well as your GPA.
Requesting documentation can also be a test of whether or not applicants can follow instructions. For example, if a job posting states that candidates must submit a list of references with their application, hiring managers can immediately eliminate all applicants who did not submit references.
List of Supporting Documents
Below is a list of supporting documents that you may need to submit along with an employment application:
- Cover Letter
- Reference List
- Letters of Recommendation
- Writing Sample (essay, articles, or other writing samples)
- Employment Certificate
- Certifications (teaching or computer certifications, for example)
There are additional documents you'll need when you get hired for a job. You'll need to prove your eligibility to work in the United States, and other documentation may be required as part of the hiring process.
How to Get Copies of Documents
The employer may request originals of certain documents, like transcripts. If that's the case, request them ahead of time from the institution where you received them.
To request a copy of a transcript from an educational institution, send a written request to the registrar or guidance office, and ask to have your transcript sent directly to the employer. Some schools may allow you to request a transcript electronically, while others may require a formal letter.
Schools generally charge a nominal fee for transcripts, often in the $5 to $30 range. For information on fees and other requirements, consult your school’s website or call the office directly to inquire.
How to Submit Supporting Documentation
Gathering up all this information at one time, whether it’s during the application process or after an initial interview, is hugely helpful to employers. It allows the hiring manager to have all the pertinent information about candidates on hand, and cuts back on follow-up emails and phone calls to request more documents.
Applicants may find collecting and submitting documents to be less of a convenience, and more of a hassle. Some documents may require a bit of digging around to locate. For example, where is your Project Management Professional Certification, and who can you call to get a copy if you can't find your own?
Other documentation may require a bit of work to assemble. For instance, if you're submitting a list of references, you'll need to ask permission to use them as a reference, and inform them that someone from the company may be in touch shortly. You should also brief them on the job description and remind them about your relevant skills and qualifications for the role, so that they can make a solid case for you.
Label Your Documents With Your Name
Carefully label and name all files, including your name and details on what is in the document. Your references file, for example, could be named "Sarah-Wong - References" or "Sarah Wong References."
Avoid just naming them "References" since hiring managers tend to have a lot of files, and won't be able to easily identify your documentation.
Follow a consistent naming pattern across all documents. This will make it easier for recruiters and hiring managers and give a more professional first impression.
Follow the Directions in the Job Posting
Once you have all the supporting documentation gathered up, follow the employer's instructions as to how to submit it. Employers may ask for you to upload files or attach them in an email.
If employers request specific file formats (PDFs, for instance), make sure to follow those instructions.
Submit all your documents at once, with your resume or application. If you’re missing something, try to get a copy before submitting your application. Even better, save yourself a step and have copies of everything you might need in connection with job searches on your computer, ready to compile and send.
Bringing Documentation to a Job Interview
If the company asks for supporting documentation to be brought to the interview, bring a photocopy of each of the requested documents with you to leave with the hiring manager.
Also be sure that you have everything else you need ready to bring with you to the interview.