Most of the time, the job application process is pretty straightforward. Even so, there are job application mistakes that can cost you the opportunity to advance in the hiring process. Competition for jobs is keen, so you need to make sure your employment applications, both paper and online, are as polished as possible.
Take the time to carefully complete every application you fill out to be sure the information is accurate, your dates and job descriptions are correct, and there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
10 Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Skimming the instructions and missing the real intent of the application questions. Read carefully and don't rush. After all, who wants an employee who doesn't follow directions?
- Writing "see attached" to avoid filling in the material on the application. Many employers will screen primarily on the application itself, so you need to fill in all the blanks even if the information is duplicated on an attached resume.
- Supplying generic statements about your skills or experiences. Instead, highlight and front-load the skills and experiences most relevant to your target job.
- Fabricating or exaggerating your qualifications. Dishonesty and fabricated information are grounds for immediate dismissal, so avoid the temptation to make up or puff up your credentials.
- Applying to jobs you’re not qualified for. Don’t waste your time or the hiring manager’s time applying for the job if the position requires an advanced degree or a certain number of years of experience that you don’t possess.
- Submitting your application to the wrong person or department. Make sure you direct your application to the individual or department referenced in the ad or job post. You might also want to copy other contacts you have at the company: "I thought you might want to see the materials which I submitted to HR given our helpful informational meeting last week."
- Spelling or grammatical errors. Copy and paste online descriptions into a spelling and grammar checker like Word first. Put your finger on every word and make sure it is spelled correctly. Read your document out loud to check for grammatical errors, and, when possible, have another set of eyes to review your document before submission.
- Writing descriptions that don't include accomplishments. Even though the application says job description, take that to mean a description of how you added value as opposed to a bland list of duties. Using numbers to quantify descriptions is a good way to highlight accomplishments, “Managed financial oversight of $500,000 annual fundraiser.”
- Neglecting to explain job gaps. If you have legitimate reasons for gaps in employment, find a way to explain why you were out of work. An example is, "I left in good standing to care for my newborn baby or a terminally ill parent."
- Listing an unprofessional sounding email address. Set up a separate email account for job-related purposes that don't include anything like firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can be helpful to write out a master list with the dates and descriptions of your education and the jobs you have held in chronological order. When you are filling out applications, you can refer to your list and be sure that you are providing accurate and complete information to each employer.
If you submit a resume as well, you will want to tailor it to the individual position you are applying to, highlighting the most relevant experiences. These may differ from the chronological list that the general application may ask for, which is one of the reasons they may request supporting documentation to get a complete picture of your qualifications.
Before you submit the application, read it through again, scanning for typos, and making sure that you answered all the questions completely and appropriately.
Submit All the Required Documents
It’s important to pay attention to the details of the requirements for the application listed in the job posting. Sometimes, in addition to filling out an application, the hiring manager will require you to submit a resume, cover letter, portfolio, list of references, etc.
To be considered for the job, make sure that you submit all the documents requested. If you don’t follow the application instructions, it’s an easy way for the hiring manager to eliminate you from contention.