Many jobseekers are impatient with the application process – especially established workers with a resume in hand. “Why even bother?” they’ll ask. “Can’t I just write in ‘See resume?’”?
The answer is no, for a couple of good reasons. A resume, while helpful as background information about you, doesn’t serve the same purpose as an application. A resume doesn’t allow the company to ask questions of you that might be important, such as your criminal history or military background. Since your resume is a product you bring in, there’s no way of knowing that it’s your own work – or that it’s strictly factual. Some studies estimate that as many as one out of three resumes contain an exaggeration or outright falsehood – things like jobs people never held or degrees they didn’t finish.
An application always contains a statement to the effect that you “certify that the answers given and statements made by me on this application are true and correct, to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that any misleading or false statements, and any omissions on this application made by me, may render this application void and if I am employed, would lead to termination.” Your signature there should be taken very seriously. That same signature often serves as permission for any background screening the company may do.
Here are some general tips for completing application forms:
- Read the whole form carefully before starting
- Bring along an erasable pen – you can erase mistakes, and after a while, the ink dries and becomes permanent
- Bring along a resource for quick reference to dates and previous employer information and your address book for reference numbers and addresses
- Use your best and most careful handwriting, so it’s easy to read
- Leave no blanks; enter n/a (for “not applicable”) when the information requested does not apply to you; this tells people checking the form that you did not simply skip the question
- Be ready to fill the form out right there in the office. Many companies won’t let you take the form with you to fill out at home. Don’t take this personally. In some industries, basic reading and writing skills are essential, and many companies want to see that you don’t need help in reading or writing the application.