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The Do’s and Don’ts – Employment Application Process

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Written by a Work From Home HR Recruiter

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You would think that filling out an employment application for a job is self-explanatory, right?  All you have to do is fill out your contact information, enter your previous employment, sign it and you’re done.  Well, there are many common mistakes candidates make and I have listed some best practices with the “do’s” and “don’ts” when applying for a job.

Here are a few work-at-home employment application tips to help you avoid common mistakes.

READ THE JOB DESCRIPTION.  This is probably the biggest mistake someone can make.  If you are applying for a job, before even thinking about filling out an application you need to know exactly what would be required of you, the hours, salary…etc.  A common mistake candidates make is skimming over a job description and then contacting the hiring manager asking questions that are directly in the information they’ve supplied.  Hiring managers have many other applications to screen, emails to answer, and other candidates to contact while also interviewing and doing background checks.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Research.  Research the job, the company, the salary, competition, expectations, find online reviews…basically, find out anything that may be useful in the interview.  Many recruiters start the interview off first thing by asking what a candidate already knows about the company and then ask why they want to work there and may ask how previous companies/jobs compare.  Without doing any research on the company/job you may just come up with generic answers by listing off your strengths or what you’ve done in the past roles (which may not even relate to the job you’re interviewing for.)  Going into an interview before doing your homework is like taking an exam for a class you’ve never even attended.

FILL OUT AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU CAN.  Whether you’re highly qualified for the job you’re applying for or not, giving as much information as possible is key.  Maybe your title was “store associate” at the last company you worked for but you took on many other tasks and your role included managerial duties.  Or you were a key holder and trained new employees.  If the application asks for your previous job responsibilities, this is your chance to show your strengths and any additional tasks that you were assigned above the typical store “Associate.”

When a candidate lists “customer service” as the only job duty on an application, that doesn’t explain anything.  Almost every job involves “customer service”.  It’s important to be as specific as possible because a job title says nothing about the job duties actually performed.  The information you provide in the job duties section is an opportunity to sell yourself and add any additional work experiences and capabilities that you may have.  Supplying very little information can give off the impression that you just want to complete the form as quickly as possible, that being offered the position isn’t worth taking the extra time out for, or that you simply don’t care.

DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR WORK.  After you fill out the application double and triple-check the information you’ve provided.  It is especially easy to overlook dates.  One simple mistake could just be a single number from a date or phone number and it could keep you from getting the job.  For example, if a candidate has consistent employment and they’ve just happened to put in the wrong year as their ending date, it can make a position that maybe they held for ten years appear as if they were only employed for a year or so.  That’s adding a 9-year employment gap!  If a recruiter tries to do a job verification and the number was entered incorrectly, they won’t be able to complete the verification and you definitely won’t want to make the hiring manager research any information that should have been entered correctly on the job description.

EXPLAIN GAPS IN EMPLOYMENT.  Here is another common mistake that can keep you from getting a job.  It is important that with any gaps a candidate has in their employment history that they make note as to why they were unemployed.  It could be that they just took time off to finish school, or to stay at home with their first child, take care of an elderly parent…etc. but if nothing is clarified the hiring manager is able to assume anything as to why there are gaps in employment history.  Filling out an application doesn’t guarantee an interview so if a candidate chooses not to disclose any pertinent information during the application process, there may not be an opportunity to explain later.

DO NOT ASK UNNECESSARY QUESTIONS.  That may sound bad, I’m sorry but if you’ve ever heard “no question is a dumb question” it most likely didn’t come from a recruiter or hiring manager.  DO NOT ask questions that you can easily acquire yourself.  For instance, if the pay starts out at your State’s minimum wage, and you KNOW that the job starts out at minimum wage, don’t ask them what your State’s minimum wage is.  You can easily find that out yourself, google it.  This also goes hand in hand with reading the job description.  Again, asking questions that are laid out in the job description is not going to look good.  Read EVERYTHING that is given to you.  It is very frustrating for a hiring manager to take the time to answer questions that have already been answered.  Just last week, a Recruiter friend of mine and I were talking on the phone when I heard her let out a deep breath (sound of frustration).  When I asked her what was going on she said that she got an email from a candidate who asked her a question that she had JUST answered in an email.  She said that this candidate had emailed her a long list of questions and when she replied most of the answers were all at the very end of the email, so she’s assuming that the candidate didn’t even read the entire email before replying again and asking more questions.  This can lead a hiring manager to assume that you cannot follow directions, that you are impatient, and that you do not respect their time and energy.

Let me be clear by saying that there is a difference between asking for “clarification” about something they’ve previously answered for you and asking for something specific that has already been answered or has been outlined in the job description.  Here are some scenarios:

The job description and application have been emailed to a candidate.  The hours and all requirements have been included very specifically in the job description.

Clarification Question Example 1- “I see in the job description that XYZ high-speed internet connection is required.  I have LMNOP high-speed internet connection and I’m wondering if that will work or if I will need to contact  my internet provider to upgrade my service.”

That is an understandable question, I myself am not an internet guru so I can completely understand where someone may be confused.

Clarification Question Example 2- “The job description says that 30 is the maximum amount of hours per week, are there ever opportunities for overtime?”

Example of what NOT to ask- “What are the required hours?”

Asking for clarification can just show that you’ve read the job description and/or the information provided but that you are looking to ensure you have a complete understanding of what is expected.

FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.  As I mentioned previously, a job description seems self-explainable, but that is not always the case.  Before filling out ANYTHING ensure that you read all directions.  There may be portions of the application that you are not required to fill out so you do not want to submit an application with the information they’ve asked you to leave blank.  One of the most common examples of “not following directions” is when the application states that “see resume” is not acceptable.  Candidates consistently sent applications to me in the past saying “see resume” on their submitted applications as it stated specifically in bold not to.  For a long time, I didn’t see this as a big deal, processed the applications anyway, and thought nothing of it.  Well, again and again, I hired these candidates and I’d get emails from my boss saying they didn’t work out because they couldn’t “follow directions” once hired.  She sent the applications of these New Hires pointing out that they didn’t follow directions on the application, so I should have seen this as a red flag.  Because this happened so often I had to add verbiage to our information letter (even with the application already stating that “see resume” responses are not acceptable).  New verbiage added:

“You may send your resume by email as a supplement to the information you provide on the application but “see Resume” responses are NOT acceptable and will NOT be processed.  Please follow all directions as it is part of the screening process.”

So now, when I have candidates who enter “see resume” we will not screen the application and the candidates are sent a rejection letter.  This is not something that any company likes to do but it is necessary to see what candidates are serious about the position and whether or not they can follow directions.

SPELL CHECK.  I can be honest, it took me a long time to spell “definitely” correctly, and sometimes I still forget how to spell “restaurant” but when you are applying for a job you do not want to submit anything with spelling errors.  Spell check doesn’t always catch everything, so you need to make sure you proofread emails and applications before sending or submitting them.  A common mistake, in this case, can be the spelling of a company’s name.  Yikes!  You definitely don’t want to misspell a company’s name that you’re applying to.  Also, when proofing makes sure to check your grammar.  It’s even easier to make spelling and grammar mistakes if you are using a cell phone or corresponding.

PROFESSIONALISM.  With any email you send, you want to stay professional.  Use proper English, punctuation, and grammar.  It doesn’t matter if you’re applying for an entry-level position or a high-level executive opportunity because each contact you make with the company is a part of the screening process.  This especially includes patience.  Wait for a reply before sending more emails.  A common rule I go by is the 24/48 hour rule.  If you’ve sent an email and haven’t heard back within 24 to 48 hours, I would say that it’s appropriate to send a second email ensuring they received your previous one.  The last thing you want to do is consistently email until you get a response.  Remember, they are busy sorting through other emails.  You may not get an immediate response.  If you’ve waited 24-48 hours and want to make sure they’ve received your email/application, be kind and understanding.  DO NOT be rude or demanding.  Be polite.  Make sure to note that you were just making sure that they received whatever it is you’ve sent and it also doesn’t hurt to mention knowing how busy they are and that you know at times emails can get lost or sent to spam.

NEVER BURN BRIDGES.  Didn’t get the job?  Was your application denied?  OK.  Being rude and disrespectful will not earn you the job and I can promise you that it WILL keep you from ever getting another opportunity again with this company.  If the position you applied for is a work-from-home position, guess what…a lot of work-from-home companies are in contact with each other.  You never know who could be your boss someday.  You also never know who knows who.  Recruiters tend to know each other and share best practices and tips.  I don’t forget the people who have been rude, nasty, or threatening.  I may go through 400-500 applications a month, but if I see a resume come through of someone who sent me an email 8 months previously that had been insulting or hurtful, that name will stand out to me immediately!  What does someone gain out of a nasty email?  3 minutes of relief because “you really showed them?”  I myself am not someone who would go out of my way to spoil an opportunity for someone, but it wouldn’t be hard to forward a nasty email over to a few friends at other work-from-home companies letting them know how that candidate represents himself/herself.

Now you should be ready to apply for that next great opportunity.  Remember the do’s and don’ts, check your spelling, and stay professional.  I hope you learned something and check back for my next article on “acing the job interview.”

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