Overcoming common errors of completing job applications

A dozen hints for filling out job applications to avoid common errors.

Job application form

In today’s economy, preparing yourself for the job hunt is a serious task, and attention to detail is very important. As a member of Michigan State University Extension's career exploration and workforce preparation team, I have compiled 12 hints to overcome some of the most common errors people make when applying for a job.

  • Prepare yourself. Think through and make notes regarding any work history, explanations or reference information you may need. Then when the opportunity arises, you will have the information you need with you.
  • Follow all directions and format requirements. Job applications can be screened based on simply following instructions.
  • If you are required to complete an application, complete the application. According to Career Builder, do not substitute your resume for a required application form. A resume is an important tool in the job hunt process, but it cannot be the replacement for what an employer asks for on an application
  • Hard copy application forms must be completed legibly and without errors. If you make an error, do not leave scratch outs or white-outs on a job application. It will be well worth your time to start over with a new application.
  • Whether completing an online or paper copy of an application, take time to proof read and spell check. Potential employers will cut applicants based on errors in the application.
  • When a job application requires a signature, make sure you sign it. This might sound silly, but it is a common mistake in the quest for submitting job applications to accidentally forget to sign the form.
  • Despite trends in our economy, if you have a work history that resembles job hopping, make sure you explain why.
  • Employers also watch for gaps in employment on an application. If you have gaps in employment of more than 90 days in length, you should provide an explanation.
  • Provide complete contact information for your references. This is another common mistake made on job applications.
  • Complete all requested information. If you need to leave something blank, perhaps use N/A for “not applicable.” If you are completing a two-sided form, make sure everything is filled in on both sides.  
  • When hard copies are used and you need to mail the application, make sure you remember to put all the application materials into the envelope before mailing.  
  • And lastly, make sure mailed application materials have the proper postage. There is nothing worse than a potential employer needing to pay your postage due bill!

The National 4-H curriculum Build Your Future: choices…connections…careers, authored by MSU Extension staff, provides tools and resources to enhance young people’s ability to complete job applications. In addition, 4-H volunteers can help youth develop these skills.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, email us at 4-HCareerPrep@anr.msu.edu.

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