young woman filling out job application

Tips for Filling Out a Job Application

By Anne Shaw and professionally reviewed by The Hartford's Vocational Rehabilitation Team

Wondering how to apply for a job? Beyond preparing your resumé and your cover letter, many employers will still ask you to fill out a job application.

Often these applications ask for information that you may have already included on your resumé, but that doesn’t mean you should skip anything. When you fill out the application, it’s your way of confirming that all the information on your resumé and cover letter are correct.

How to Prepare for Filling Out Job Applications

To help you put your best foot forward, we’ve created checklists and gathered tips around:

  • What to bring when filling out a job application
  • How to prepare to fill out a job application

Five Things to Bring

  • Three copies of your resumé or a list that categorizes your education and employment history
  • Three professional references (name, job title, phone number and email address for each)
  • Three personal references (name, relationship, phone number and email address for each)
  • Your schedule of available working hours
  • Your skills or work portfolio, if applicable

Ways to Prepare

  • Prepare an employment history list. For each of your past jobs, list the employer, contact information for the employer, your job title, responsibilities, achievements, and the start and end dates. List your jobs in chronological order, starting with the most recent.
  • Have your educational history ready, including the schools/colleges you attended, training programs you’ve completed, and diplomas, certifications and/or degrees you’ve earned.
  • Plan to dress appropriately if filling out a job application in person. Not only does this make a good impression, but it prepares you in case you’re asked to interview the same day.
  • Read the job description. Consider what makes you a good match and prepare to highlight your most relevant skills, experience and interests on your application.
  • Aim to write with a positive, confident tone — including when you explain why you left past positions. Rather than, “I didn’t like my boss,” consider something along the lines of, “I wanted to accept a position that would broaden my skills.”
  • Record a clear, professional voicemail message on your phone and set up a professional email address that you can include on the “Contact information” portion of your application.
  • Clean up your social media profiles. Many employers use social media as a screening tool. Look back through your various accounts and remove anything that may reflect poorly on you.
  • Give your references a heads up that you’re applying to a new company/role, so they’ll be prepared to talk with your prospective employer. Give them a copy of the job description/job announcement to help them prepare.
  • Look at sample job applications to ensure you’re prepared to answer all questions (continue reading for an example).
  • Practice typing. If you don’t often use a computer keyboard, consider visiting a public library or practicing on a friend or family member’s computer. Some employers will ask you to use a computer to fill out their applications.
  • Research appropriate compensation for your geographic location, job title and skill set. You do not need to write a salary range, but it’s good to be prepared in case the employer wants to interview you on the spot and asks about wage/salary requirements.

Disclosure of Disability: If you have a disability, decide whether you want or need to disclose it during the job application process. Often, the answer is that you do not need to.

14 Tips for Filling Out a Job Application

Once you’ve prepared, use these tips to ensure your job application process goes smoothly and that you produce a quality job application:

Filling out a Job Application by Hand

  1. Ask for two copies. This way, you have a practice copy. In case you make any mistakes, the second copy can serve as your clean copy to turn in to the employer.
  1. Write slowly and legibly. Take time to ensure your handwriting is neat and that all information is correct. Use appropriate punctuation and capitalization rules. Use a blue or black pen to record your answers.

Filling out a Job Application Online

  1. Consider writing all your answers down on a separate word document. Then copy and paste them into the online application fields. This will save you time in case you unexpectedly lose connectivity, get timed out, or accidentally reload the page.

Other Tips

  1. Read the entire form prior to filling it out. Pay attention to the instructions and read each question carefully — even read them twice.
  1. Answer each question accurately and as requested, keeping in mind that all information can be checked.
    • If a question only asks for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, then don’t write a short paragraph.
    • On the other hand, if a question asks for an answer but also asks that you “explain,” then take time to write out a longer, more thoughtful answer.
    • If a question does not apply to you or your experience, you can write “not applicable” or “N/A” as your answer.
  1. Do not refer the reader to your resumé — even if the same information can be found there.
  1. Fill out the entire application without leaving anything blank.
  1. Clearly write out your credentials and skills. Avoid using jargon and acronyms.
  1. If asked about your salary requirements, it’s acceptable to write “negotiable” rather than giving a number.
  1. If you don’t want your present employer to be contacted, simply write “please do not contact” next to the employer’s name and do not include the phone number.
  1. For open-ended questions that ask about your experience or the open position, keep the employer’s needs and the job description in mind. Tailor your answers with relevant information.
  1. Do not provide or attach additional materials such as references, grades or recommendation letters unless requested.
  1. Prior to submitting your application, read it one final time; take care of any mistakes and ensure you’ve answered all questions correctly.
  1. Be ready and willing to take any related tests or assessments. Many companies include these as a starting point of their application process.

Next Steps:

After you’ve applied for a job, consider following up with an email, a cover letter or thank you letter — whichever seems most appropriate for your situation. Best of luck with your job search!

Check out LifeLime’s resource library for more helpful information about entering or returning to work.

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