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Career Corner
Avoiding the Application Trap

Selena Dehne -- Many people think that filling out an application is the same as applying for a job. It isn't. Most employers use applications to screen people out, not in.

School's out and for many young people that means one thing: it's time to find a summer job. Yet too often, the search for summer work leads young job seekers on exhausting drives from one employer to the next, only to leave them with a fistful of blank job applications at the end of the day. Not to mention the harsh reality that rarely do these applications do anything but collect dust in a filing cabinet.

"Many people think that filling out an application is the same as applying for a job. It isn't. Most employers use applications to screen people out, not in," say Michael Farr and Marie A. Pavlicko, Ed.D., co-authors of Young Person's Guide to Getting and Keeping a Good Job.

Whether it's paper or electronic, job applications should not be the obstacle that keeps a young job seeker from getting his foot in the door with employers. To avoid this trap, Farr and Pavlicko offer the following guidelines:

Picking Up and Dropping Off Applications

-- Dress appropriately when you pick up, fill out, or drop off applications.

-- Do not bring anyone else with you when you apply for a job or go on interviews.

-- If possible, complete applications at home so you can fill them out with the greatest care.

-- Be sure to proofread your applications to correct any errors.

-- Try to meet employers to hand in applications directly and ask for interviews. If unable to do so, be sure to call each employer after a few days to make sure the employer received your application. Tell the employer you are still interested in the position and would like to set up an interview.

-- Allow extra time in your schedule when you return an application -- just in case the employer asks you to stay for an interview.

Completing the Application

-- Have all the information available you'll need to fill out the application (such as phone numbers, addresses, references, etc.)

-- Follow the instructions. Read each section carefully before completing it.

-- Use an erasable black pen.

-- Take your time, avoid crossouts.

-- Be accurate. Do not guess at an answer.

-- Fill in every blank. Use NA (not applicable) or a short dash when something does not apply to you.

-- Write clearly and neatly. You can only make one impression, so make it a good one.

-- Emphasize your skills and accomplishments. Find a place to mention your strengths even if the application does not ask for them.

-- If you are short on paid work experience, mention your volunteer work and related hobbies under the Former Employers section.

-- Get permission before using a reference.

-- Sign the application if requested.

Selena Dehne is a career writer for JIST Publishing who shares the latest occupational, career and job search information available with job seekers and career changers. Her articles help people find meaningful work, develop their career and life plans, and carry out effective job search campaigns.

© 2007 Selena Dehne

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