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Filling Out a Job Application

If you’ve never filled out an employment application before it can be daunting—all those questions! And even if you have, there can be pitfalls, as well as ways to make your application more effective.

Here are some suggestions to help you get that job:

Present yourself in a positive light. If you feel like you’re not worth it, that impression will seep through into your application and interview. Smile, be polite, be positive, be respectful, and dress appropriately.

It’s important to be sure that you are dressed neatly and have a professional appearance when you inquire about applications. You should dress up a bit more than would be expected in your target job.

Always be polite and show respect for any receptionist or clerk that you speak to. They may have the power to decide if you should be considered for any job openings, or if they should pass on your application. Smile warmly, look the person in the eye as you greet them, don’t mumble, and be enthusiastic.

Plan out what you’re going to say ahead of time when you ask for an application. If you are nervous about this, practice with someone. Prepare a short 10 – 15 second introduction requesting a job application, mention your interest in working with that employer, and be sincere. Don’t flirt or joke around. Be prepared for a casual follow-up question like, “why do you want to work here?” or “do you have any similar experience?”


Practice filling out an application so you get familiar with the questions and information needed. You’ll be more comfortable when the time comes to fill an application out for real. If you can, practice filling it out at home.

Neatness and legibility counts. After all, you want your prospective employer to be able to read your name and phone number in order to contact you! Have someone with nice handwriting fill out your applications with you if you have really terrible handwriting. Take it slow—if you try to rush, your writing will get sloppier.

Read through your application and check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Always have someone else review it—they will catch things you have missed.

Show your prospective employer that you can follow directions, and that you are detail oriented, by filling in all sections of the application form. If there’s a question that is not relevant to you, just write N/A (not applicable). Review all the questions carefully to make sure you understand what is asked for.

Emphasize the job responsibilities of your past jobs or activities that are most relevant to the job for which you are applying. Do you have experience in customer service, even if it’s in a different field? Do you have specific experience from school, from volunteering, or from your jobs in another country? They all count, so include them.

Include any awards or special recognitions you may have received, as well as any organizations you were active in or helped to found.

Make a copy of the application so it will be easier to fill out other applications.

Large retail employers like Target, Wal-Mart, and most supermarkets, may have hiring kiosks instead of paper applications. Sit down, log in, and fill out the application completely. Be sure you have all the necessary information with you.


Gather all the information you need to fill out the job application:

  • General Information:
    • Name
    • Address, city, state, zip code
    • Phone number
    • Email Address
    • Social security number
    • Proof of eligibility to work in the United States
    • An employment certificate if you are under age eighteen
    • Have you been convicted of a felony within the last five years? (Information about convictions varies based on state law)
    • School(s) attended, degrees, graduation date
    • Certifications
    • Skills and qualifications
  • Employment History (for both current and prior positions)
    • Employer
    • Address, phone, email
    • Supervisor
    • Job title and responsibilities
    • Salary
    • Starting and ending dates of employment
    • Reason for leaving
    • Permission to contact previous employer
  • References: Have three references ready
    • Name
    • Job title
    • Company
    • Address, phone, email
    • How you know them
  • Availability: When you could start the job and the days/hours you are available:
    • Days available
    • Hours available
    • Date you are available to start work
  • Certification
    At the end of a job application there is usually a certification that you must sign and date:
    I authorize the verification of the information listed above. I certify that the information contained in this employment application is accurate. I understand that false information may be grounds for not offering employment or for termination of employment at any point in the future.

By signing the certification you are attesting to the truth of the information you have included on the job application. If the application is online, you will click a box to acknowledge that you are submitting complete and accurate information. That checked box counts as your signature.


Check your phone. You will need to list your phone number on the application, so be sure that the voice mail message on your cell is suitable for an employer to hear. Check messages regularly so you don’t miss any calls from employers.

Check your social media. In this day and age, employers WILL check your social media activity. So make sure your posts are clean, not embarrassing, not in bad taste, and not offensive.

Follow up on your submitted application. When you have submitted a job application but haven’t heard from the employer, follow up with them. Stopping back in, or telephoning, to check on the status of your application will show that you are really interested in the job. Even if you don’t get the job you applied for, the employer will be more likely to keep you in mind for future jobs.

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