How Not To Apply For a Job: Job Application Form Mistakes

job application form

We recently advertised a job at work and my boss tasked me with compiling all of the applications.  As a small company and charity, we don’t contract out to a HR company, we have done this before and know what to look for, we just use them for the actual contracts.   So we updated our application form for the position and put out a notice.  Filling in an application form and sending with your cover letter should be fairly easy for most people, especially those qualified for the position right?

Make Sure You Are Qualified

It states it is full time and you need to be a university graduate.  Do not apply if you are still in school because it sounds like it is a great job and you really want it but can only do it part time.

I also do not care about your need for Wednesday afternoons off because you take a dance class, move it to the weekend like every other working person or don’t take a full time job.

Fill Out The Form Correctly

Putting a line through the job application form I spent a long time designing with a note to see your resume means your file is going straight through the shredder.  We have hundreds of applications to read, we designed the form so we could see the most important information at a glance to compare people.  We don’t have time to read your four page resume which you included waitressing while in university and your high school diploma.

The box that asks for your name is kind of important, make sure you don’t miss that one otherwise I will call you No Name.

My new biggest peeve.  Do not edit the form.  The forms of the candidates we shortlist need to be entered into a system to be shared with the hiring/interview panel.  You adding boxes and editing them to make them longer does not impress us.  You just showed us that you can’t follow instructions.

The form states do not staple, fold and print one sided.  So don’t do any of these things!  Two candidates lost their applications to the vicious photocopier because I missed the fact they stapled in random places (who staples in the centre of the top of the page anyway?).

Cover Letters

When did people forget how to write a letter?  There are lots of websites that will help you with cover letters.  It is a letter not a statement.  It needs a date, a to/dear line and a closing.

Tell me how you will help us, do not tell me that you think this job will look good on your resume and you hope to go to law school in a year but need that bump in outside activities because you were an amazing student.

We have to follow employment law, help us by doing the same.  Starting your cover letter with “As a dark skinned African Canadian I have been turned down for many positions…” puts us at risk of a discrimination suit when we do not hire you, you can clearly see by our website that we do not discriminate but we are not into positive discrimination either.  It added nothing to your letter except to make us wonder why you are turned down so often – my guess is that it is not racism in most cases so now your application seems more suspect.

Proofread your Job Application!

You are not applying to work at McDonald’s (although you should proofread that too), you have a university education, I know you should be able to spell and string a few words together.  Do not rely on spell-check because there are things it does not understand, sit down and read it twice before sending it out, it may be the difference between you getting the job and not.

Yes, we all use a basic template for our cover letter but you may want to change the company and the hiring manager name on your cover letter – unless I missed the fact I changed my name?

Clean Up Your Social Media

People will look you up when hiring, having a twitter account that states in the header that you like to get drunk and can’t spell is not the best first impression anyway but to an employer, you just lost a job.

Make a professional email address for applications, or is not helping you get that job!

While I am ranting on this topic, whatever happened to handwriting?  Most people type the form, that is fine, but the envelope still has handwriting.  Make it legible because the mailroom already hates you and you don’t even work here yet.  The number of times I have heard “I think this is for you” over the past few weeks is ridiculous.  Several candidates called to make sure we got their application and we did not – Canada Post probably gave up trying to read where it was going!

We did get some great applications, and some of the people who made mistakes may be great for the job, but your mistakes make it easy to move on to the next candidate when others did not make the same mistakes in their application.

4 Replies to “How Not To Apply For a Job: Job Application Form Mistakes”

  1. Thanks for the advice as I’m currently looking for a job and appreciate the tips. BTW, it looks like you’ve got a typo in one of the paragraph headers where you have “Clean Up You Social Media”.

  2. Great tips!! My partner posted a job position a few months ago. I was going through the applications for him, and the formatting on the cover letters was appalling! I just thought that in this age of Google, there is no excuse!

  3. Cheryl Grandy says: Reply

    Thanks for the tips. It’s interesting to hear about applications from the point of view of someone doing the hiring.

  4. Allison Whitmore says: Reply

    Its incredible how many people need this type of advice!! I’ve taught a careers course and some of the things students think is acceptable just blows my mind!

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