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Well-crafted job applications effectively match job seekers with employers eager to fill jobs with carefully screened, highly qualified people. Gone are the days when mailing an attractive resume and cover letter will suffice. Most job applications are submitted online and screened by computers for keywords before a human being ever takes a look. Insider information can help you understand the purpose of a job application and come out on top.
Main Purpose of a Job Application
The importance of a job application cannot be overstated. For most employers, the main purpose of the application is to obtain verifiable information about job seekers, such as their contact information, eligibility to work in the U.S., degrees, licenses, skills, qualifications, employment history and a list of references. A job application acts as a fair and consistent screening tool to narrow down the applicant pool to a few qualified finalists who may be invited to interview. Completing lengthy job applications and uploading supporting documents, like a cover letter and resume, may feel tedious, but thoroughly answering all the questions presents an opportunity to explain why you’re the perfect candidate.
Secondary Purpose of a Job Application
Employers look for red flags on job applications that may warrant further scrutiny. For example, _gaps in employmen_t may be perfectly understandable or an indicator of a person who can’t hold down a job. _Discrepancie_s between what is written on the job application and what is claimed on an uploaded cover letter or resume can also set off alarms, such as inflated titles or job duties. For instance, employers might sigh and roll their eyes if your cover letter states you are an experienced public relations expert when your job application only lists employment as a hostess and bartender.
Job Application Minefields
Another purpose of a job application is to ensure that all qualified applicants are given fair consideration. According to the SHRM organization, job applications must not contain discriminatory questions that run afoul of federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations or state anti-discrimination laws. Hiring decisions cannot be based on marital status, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity, medical conditions or disabilities, for instance.
Job applications that include discriminatory questions can get an employer in legal hot water. You may wish to leave personal questions blank if an employer inquires without a legitimate business reason. For instance, an employer can ask for documentation of military service for affirmative hiring purposes. However, it would be illegal to ask a returning military veteran about any problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if other applicants seeking that job category are not asked about PTSD.
Understanding Types of Job Applications
Job applications can range from a one-page form you fill out at a store to an in-depth online application that tests your career aptitude and reasons for applying to that company. Applying for temporary, seasonal positions is typically faster and easier than applications for full-time staff roles. Certain types of job applications require a background check, especially jobs working with children. The job application may also ask how you would handle provided hypothetical situations as a way of assessing boundaries, judgment and problem-solving abilities.
Evaluation of Applicant’s Work Ethic
Another purpose of a job application is to assess the candidate's work ethic and conscientiousness. Employers expect serious job seekers to read each question and answer thoroughly instead of racing through the form. Top-notch applicants fix spelling and grammar errors before hitting the submit button. Obvious mistakes that should have been caught can trigger automatic rejection.
Importance of Job Application Accuracy
Although it may be tempting to skip over questions or guess at dates, GPA and past salary data, such errors and omissions can cost you a job before or after you get hired. Falsifying a job application is even more serious. Employers request official academic transcripts and may contact past employers to verify information on the job application. You will likely be required to sign a statement at the end of the application attesting that all the information provided is accurate.
Using Keywords on Job Applications
The purpose of the job application is to objectively identify qualified applicants. Keywords embedded in job ads give clues to the education, skills and experience required or preferred. Because of the sheer volume of applications received, large corporations, educational institutions and government agencies use software to identify qualified applicants via keyword identification in job applications.
Examples of keywords:
- Outside sales experience
- Social media management
- Exceptional communication skills
- Associate degree in business
- Two years of graphic design
- Willing to relocate
Applications that do not contain keywords mentioned in the job posting are often taken out of the running by tracking and screening software. For that reason, pick out the keywords in the job ad and repeat those keywords verbatim in your job application, if they apply to you. In other words, specifically state that you have the required First Aid and CPR certification mentioned in the ad, instead of simply noting that you passed Red Cross training.
Tackling Supplemental Questions
Another way of weeding out applicants is the use of supplemental essay questions on job applications. For instance, a supplemental question on a job application may ask you to describe your leadership style or commitment to diversity. You can make a favorable impression by relating your answers back to the goals, values and mission of the organization. Use these questions to your advantage by articulating what you could contribute as a team member.
Reasons for Pre-Employment Screening
In addition to the actual job application, you may be asked or required to fill out separate forms prior to hire. Additional forms are part of the pre-employment screening process. Some types of job applications require applicants to pass a drug test, undergo a criminal background check or consent to a credit check. Pre-employment screening is common for jobs in transportation, public safety, banking and working with vulnerable populations.
Filling Out Job Applications
Most applications are submitted online, which starts with creating an account by entering your email, then selecting a password that you can remember. The advantage of online applications is that you can often apply to more than one position within the organization and check on the status of your application in the hiring process.
Save time by keeping a generic sample job application handy that lists the beginning and ending dates of jobs held, for example. Most in-progress applications allow you to save your responses and return later if you need to look through all your files and pay stubs for details such as the starting and ending salary of previous positions. Save time by keeping a completed application for employment example handy that contains details on positions held over the last 10 years.
Application for Employment Example
- Phone Number
Type of Job Desired:
- Full-time or Part-time
- Days and Hours of Availability
Education and Training:
- Degrees/Majors and Schools Attended
- Licenses or Certifications
- Previous employers, employer addresses and contact information for supervisor; specify starting and ending dates; salary; reason for leaving.
- List of job titles and duties performed.
- Name, address and contact information of individuals who have agreed to serve as a reference.
- Specify whether the reference is personal or professional.
Statement of Certification:
- Read and sign the following statement:
- "I attest that that all information on this application is correct to the best of my knowledge. I understand that false statements can result in a rejection of my application or job termination if discovered after hire."
- CareerOneStop: Are You Ready to Apply for a Job?
- Loma Linda University Health: Tips to Improve Your Application
- Minnesota State: Make Resume Keywords Work for You
- SHRM: Top 10 Mistakes Employers Make in Job Applications
- U.S. EEOC Commission: Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace