Employers use job applications to learn your work history, and help them decide who to interview for a job. Make yours shine by following these tips:
Collect information ahead of time
Applications often ask for these details:
- Your name, phone, email address, and home address
- Information about previous jobs including the business or employer's name, address and telephone numbers, your job title, and the dates you were employed
- Names, phone numbers (and sometimes addresses) of personal references such as coworkers, bosses, or community members that know you well
- Details about your education including schools and training programs, and degrees or certificates earned
- The hours or days you can work and when you can start
Download this personal data worksheet and use it to record your information. You can then use it to fill out many job applications—bring it with you if you are going to apply onsite for a job.
Read the entire application before you complete it, and answer every question. Write in black pen so it’s easy to read. Write in n/a (for not applicable) for sections that do not apply to you. Do your best to write neatly, or fill out online using spell check to correct errors before you submit. Write in a specific job title for the position you are applying for. List related skills and experience. If possible, attach your resume with details. Answer all questions honestly. False information can keep you from getting hired.
Prepare to answer "What is the reason you left past jobs?"
- If you were fired, contact the Human Resources office of your previous employer and ask what is in your employment record. If a manager there will give you a positive reference, contact them to request it. You may also note on applications "seeking better job fit" rather than "fired." Avoid writing any negative comments about your employer.
- If you quit your job, write "resigned" or "voluntarily separated" instead of "quit"; that will tell the new employer that you ended the job following proper procedures. If more detail is asked, use one of these reasons that best fits:
- Quit for a better job, if you got another job soon after
- Quit to move to another area
- Quit to attend school, if you can show this on your resume
- Quit to help out with family
- Quit to focus on your own business, volunteer work, or another interest or opportunity
Difficult or illegal questions
Illegal questions do not require a response. Applications may not require you to answer these questions before a job offer: race, ethnicity, religion, creed, national origin, public assistance, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, and disability. You can write in n/a, or answer them if you choose to.
If you have a criminal record, be honest, but don’t try to tell the whole story, just the necessary information. Some will ask only about felonies, others only about convictions in the past seven years.