By Sharine Sample
If you are a job seeker who hasn’t been landing an interview, you may be wondering, “What am I not doing right? Why won’t anyone call me back?”
Hiring managers often have a common complaint when reviewing candidates: applicants who do not fill out the job application in its entirety. Most organizations require a candidate to complete an application as part of the recruitment process, even if they also ask for a traditional resume. This is an important part of the screening process for a couple of reasons. It helps hiring managers streamline information and make sure they have the same standardized information about each candidate. It also shows that you can understand and follow directions.
Completing an application – meaning, filling in all of the requested information and leaving no blank spaces – is Step One. If you are applying for jobs and not completing applications in their entirety, you are missing a key opportunity to highlight your skills, experience, and knowledge.
Here are some suggestions on how to make sure that you are successfully completing your job applications:
- Follow the application instructions. Many applications will prompt you about what to do next. They may ask you to check off boxes or enter a Captcha code. If the application states, “Please provide details, experience, etc.,” do not just write yes or Read back over your answers to make sure they are professional and grammatically correct, and that you have fully answered the question.
- Include a cover letter tailored to the job. Even if the cover letter is optional, upload one! A cover letter is a great way to grab an employer’s attention and give them an idea of what type of person and professional you are. And since other applicants will skip this step, your cover letter will make you stand out. Always review the job description and make sure that your cover letter depicts the type of person that company is looking for. Be impactful and concise, and more importantly, leave out the emotion.
- Include key words on your resume. Some application systems have a rating system and will score you based on your wording. Pull important words from the job description and add them to your resume and the application. Use key terms ONLY if they do apply to your experience. Otherwise, you aren’t being truthful. Pro tip #2: Always upload your resume, even if it repeats some of the information on the application.
- Check your employment dates. Make sure all your employment dates are accurate. If you are currently working, put “(your hire date)-Present” so the employer knows that you didn’t leave your occupation as of this month.
- Be transparent about your qualifications. Of course you know not to fib on your application or resume. Go a step further and be fully transparent about your education and training. If any of your certifications have expiration dates, list them. This shows a hiring manager how soon they should anticipate you needing to re-certify. If you get the interview, you can point out those dates and mention your plans to become re-certified or ask if it’s possible to do that through your new employer.
- Proofread and revise. Before submitting, go through each section and make sure you have answered all questions. Double check that you have uploaded everything required. Also, do one more check for grammatical and spelling errors.
- Track your applications and follow up. It’s always a good idea to keep a list of companies and positions for which you applied either on a spreadsheet or Word document. This will make it easier for you to follow up on your applications, and is also helpful if you apply to multiple positions within the same company.
Remember, the job application is the first step in impressing an employer. Don’t sell yourself short by not completing it. By following these simple suggestions, hopefully you’ll be getting your first call back or interview in no time!
Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. Learn more about Goodwill’s employment services here.