Don’t Suffer from Job Application Phobia – FAQ

I was on Twitter the other day and a young lady commented, “Having to fill out the job application makes you not want the d*mn job!” It was at that moment that I knew it was time to write this article as I totally agreed with her and felt her pain.  During your job search, you will probably fill out several LONNNNNNG online applications.  It can be a very frustrating and tedious process; however, you needn’t suffer from job application phobia.  While each application is different, there are some general guidelines that can be used across the board.  I hope my responses to these FAQs help get you through the process while keeping your sanity!

1) Why are job applications so long and detailed?

Sometimes I secretly think they make them so long to see if you actually really want the job and want to go through and answer all their questions!!  But seriously, filling out the job application is very important and should not be minimized as employers use this as a screening device. If they see a half-completed application, they may assume that the person is not really that serious about the job and you will most likely be skipped over for the interview. Employers have carefully designed their questions to get the information they need to determine if you are a good fit.  The saying is true: “Resumes tell the employers what YOU want them to know and job applications tell them what THEY want to know.”  So be prepared to spend 30 minutes to an hour per job application.  In case no one has told you, looking for a job IS a job!

2) Do I have to fill out the entire application?

No you don’t, but keep in mind that might cost you the chance to interview.  If you want to proceed to the next step, you definitely have to fill out at least the required fields.

3) Should I have my resume and cover letter prepared beforehand? 

YES!! This will save you a lot of time.  Having your cover letter and resume already prepared means all you have to do is upload it or copy and paste it.  Some applications require a cover letter and some don’t, but it is better to have it prepared beforehand then to have to stop in the middle of the process and develop one.

4) What information do I need regarding previous/current jobs?

Most applications want information on the last 3 – 4 jobs you’ve had.  So it would be a good idea right now while you’re thinking about it to make a list of pertinent information for those jobs.  You know they are going to ask for this information so having it already written down BEFOREHAND will save you so much agony!!!  You should have the following information:   A) company name and address, B) supervisor’s name, title, and phone number, C) hire date and end date, D) starting and ending salary, E) your job title and accomplishments and F) reason why you left that job.  Basically, your success in filling out applications will be determined largely by how prepared you are.

5) What if I worked for a company that no longer exists or my supervisor no longer works there?

Just give the most recent contact information that you had for the company and/or supervisor.  You can explain in an interview that the company shut down or your supervisor left.  If just your particular location doesn’t exist anymore, give the information for the main office or headquarters. Human Resources should be able to verify the information employers need.

6) Should I submit my references at the same time as my application?

If you are given the option to include references, I would go ahead and submit them.  Now remember, your references should be 3 people whom you’ve had a professional relationship with for about a year.  That could be a supervisor, co-worker, professor, or someone you’ve worked with in a volunteer capacity – not family or friends.  Your references should be up-to-date and not go back to someone you had a relationship with more than 3 years ago, but there may be some exceptions.  I normally update my references every 6 months whether I am looking for a job or not.  That way when the time comes I already have the people and information I need.  Oh yeah, be sure to give your references a copy of your resume and give them a ‘heads up’ if an employer will be calling them about you.

7) Why do they ask you your graduation date from high school and/or college?

My guess would be to try to figure out your age.  Most people graduate high school at 17 or 18 and college at 21 or 22.  So depending on the year of your graduation, they can add it up and figure how old you are.  They may use your age to discriminate against you if they feel that you are too old or too young. I only fill in the graduate date if it is mandatory.  (If you haven’t actually graduated yet, you can put the month and year that you plan to graduate.)

8) What should I put as my reason for leaving a job if I was fired?

You can write “would like to discuss in the interview.” That way you can explain the circumstances surrounding your termination.  Now you can’t do this for every job, but if there is one job that you feel needs to be explained in person, then it is acceptable.  I was a hiring manager for a number of years and when I saw that someone wanted to discuss in the interview their reason for leaving a job, that did not stop me from calling them.  (Tip:  Make sure when you discuss it in the interview, you discuss it positively.  See my blog:  “How Do I Talk About Being Fired In an Interview?”)

9) What should I put when asked about desired salary?

Always give a range if you can such as $50,000 – $55,000/year or $20.00 – $25.00/hour based on research you have done in your field or what was mentioned in the job description. Having a range gives you more flexibility when it’s time to negotiate.

10) Is it okay to put “see resume” anywhere on the application?

Absolutely not!!  More than likely you can just copy and paste the information directly from your resume.  Don’t be lazy!!  Remember, applications are part of your first impression.

11) What should I put if an answer is required but the question doesn’t pertain to me? 

You should write “NA”  or “Not Applicable.”

12) Is it okay to say that I don’t want my current boss to be contacted?

That is perfectly fine. I always say that I don’t want my current boss to be contacted because I don’t want them to know that I am looking for a job.  The only exception was when I was transferring to another team/location within my same company.

13) Do I have to answer questions regarding ethnicity, sex, veteran or disability status?

No, you don’t have to answer these questions.  Ideally, these questions are asked to ensure fair hiring practices of all genders and ethnic groups.  As a hiring manager I had to submit a form monthly to my corporate office detailing how many male, female, Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, etc. applicants I had.  This was to ensure I was giving everyone a fair chance and wasn’t just hiring people who looked like me (African-American women).

I have seen an increase in applications wanting to know if you are a veteran.  My personal belief is that due to reports in recent years that veterans are not able to find jobs once they return home, companies have been given incentives to hire them.  As far as the disability question, it should be done to assess what additional assistance would be necessary for disabled candidates to be able to perform the same job as everyone else.

Now of course, all of the above information could be used to discriminate against you.  That’s why I said you don’t have to disclose that information and you can simply select ‘I prefer not to answer.’

14) Do I have to give my social security and driver’s license numbers?

Only if it is mandatory.  Other than that, you can leave it blank or put “will provide later.”  This information really shouldn’t be needed until the background check is done and you can provide it at that time.

15) What does the fine print on applications really mean?

This is the part normally at the end of the application and you should definitely read it carefully.  Most of the time it is regarding the truthfulness of your responses and confirming you didn’t knowingly give false information.  Some applications may have statements authorizing them to do a background, employment, and credit check.  So again, make sure you read the entire application and are in agreement with what you are submitting.

16) Is it okay to email my resume and cover letter to someone at the company AND submit an application?

You always want to be mindful of the directions in the job description.  If it says “No emails or phone calls,” then make sure you follow instructions.  Of course, if you personally know someone who works at the company and want them to pass your resume/cover letter along to the hiring manager, that is okay.  Just make sure you always submit the application regardless because there are legal ramifications regarding companies not following the proper hiring procedures.

17) How long does it take to hear something after I have submitted my application?

That depends.  It could be 3 – 4 days up to 3 – 4 weeks or more.  How long it takes could be determined by how many applications they get, how soon they are looking to fill the position, how busy they are or when Human Resources gives them the green light to start setting up interviews.

BONUS TIP:

PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!  Most applications give you the opportunity to proofread before submitting.  It is very important that you take the time to do this so that you don’t have any mistakes or misspelled words. Also don’t use abbreviations.

 

FAQ – Lunch Interviews

1.  Why do employers have interviews over lunch?

There are a number of reasons:  a.) it may be the most convenient time for them to meet, b.) they want to see your table manners – definitely if the position you are interviewing for will require you to take others out to lunch or c.) they just like to go out to eat.

2.  What should I do if I am not familiar with the restaurant the employer chooses?

Nowadays most restaurants have their menu online and you can look it up prior to your interview to familiarize yourself with what they offer.  You can also arrive a little earlier and ask for a menu or ask the host what they recommend.  If the employer shows up and sees you already looking at the menu, it’s no big deal.

3.  How early should I arrive?

You should treat lunch interviews as regular interviews and arrive 15 minutes early.

4.  Where should I put my purse, bag and/or coat?

If you have a bag or briefcase put it on the floor next to your chair or in one of the other empty chairs at the table.  A more upscale restaurant will have a coat check, but if not you can also put your coat in one of the empty chairs or hang it on the back of your chair.  Now, make sure your bag and coat are not in the aisle in the way of the servers that will be passing by.

Ladies, when you are going for an interview take a smaller purse (or wallet) that can fit in your lap under your napkin.

5.  If the interviewer is a woman should I open the door for her or pull out her chair?

Absolutely not!  In business things of this natural are gender-neutral.  If you try to pull out the interviewer’s chair or open her door, she may see it as being overbearing.  And under no circumstances do you walk her to her car.  Keep in mind, this is a business meal….you are not on a date!

6.  How do I know what to order?

You can do the things mentioned above in #2 or you can very casually ask the employer what he/she will be having or recommends.  Take notice of the price of the suggested items and stay within that range.  You don’t want to order a steak that costs $21.99 and the employer has a chicken salad for $11.99.  Do not order messy foods.  You will already be nervous and shouldn’t add to that by trying to figure out how to wrap the spaghetti around your fork.  Also, never order alcohol…even if the interviewer is having alcohol.  It could be a test to see if you will drink in the middle of the day.  Then if you get the job, you may do the same thing and come back to work after you have been drinking.

7.  Is it okay to pray over my food?

Of course.  There’s no need to make a big deal about it.  Just pray as you would normally.

8.  How do I pace myself during the meal?

You want to watch the interviewer and keep the same pace.  You don’t want them to be done with their salad and having to wait 10 minutes for you to finish yours.  Also, don’t get done too early.    The lunch interview is NOT about the meal.  So, make sure you eat a snack beforehand so you do not arrive starving.

9.  What if there is something wrong with my food or I don’t like it?

This is where you have to make a decision as to whether it is absolutely unbearable or you can still get through it.  If it is clearly something you cannot eat (you’re allergic to it or you feel it will make you sick), very politely explain that to the server and order something else.  You should order something that can be prepared quickly like a salad so you don’t “hold up” the interview.

Now, if you order something and then realize you don’t quite have a taste for it, just eat a reasonable portion of it anyway.   Remember, the interviewer is observing your table manners and you don’t want to do anything that will raise a red flag like being too picky or indecisive.

10.  How do I take notes and eat during the interview?

Very carefully.  You can have a small notepad for jotting down those important things you want to be sure you don’t forget.  You will have to use your listening skills more so in this situation and then jot down most of your notes as soon as you get to your car.

11.  What if I need to excuse myself from the table?

The only reasons you should excuse yourself is to use the restroom or excessive coughing or sneezing.  In this case just say, “Excuse me, I will be right back.”  That’s it…you don’t have to announce that you are going to the restroom.  I mean…where else would you be going????  You should not leave the table to take a phone call because your phone should be turned off or left in the car.   The only phone call exception is if there is a family emergency and someone is in the hospital.  In this instance, you would let the employer know that as soon as you sit down at the table.  You can say, “I just want to let you know that a family member is in the hospital and I may be getting an update while we’re here.  I apologize in advance if I need to step away for a moment.”

12.  What if I see someone I know while at the restaurant?

Speak briefly, explain that you’re on an interview and try to keep moving.  Example:  “Hi Michelle, how are you?”  (Michelle:  I’m doing great.)  “Good to see you! I’m on an interview with XYZ Company.  I will catch up with you later.”  Hopefully, they will get the hint that they should end the conversation.  You may have to give them a “look” that says “I can’t talk right now.”  Once you leave the interview, you can call them on the phone and fully explain the reason for your abruptness.

13.  Can I take home a “to go” box?

NO!  You should try to eat the majority of your food and not really leave too much on your plate.

14.  Should I offer to pay or leave the tip?

No, it is not necessary.  The employer will pay for the meal and leave the tip.

15.  Can I smoke after the interview?

You may smoke once you are out of the view of the employer.