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.

 

Today I Woke Up With No Job (6 Tips to Survive Unemployment)

This statement has been true for me 3 times in my career. Each time was a little bit different – 2 times I had advanced warning and 1 time I did not.  With each period of unemployment lots of different thoughts went through my mind.  What happened? Why me? Was there anything I could have done to avoid this?  Did my manager know more than he was telling me?  What am I going to do?  I was also thinking to myself – I am intelligent. I have an advanced degree. I’m professional.  I’m not lazy and I know I am qualified to do several types of jobs.  So why am I unemployed?

I have fully come to understand how not having a job (and a job title) is directly correlated to your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  Do you have any idea how humiliating and humbling it is for someone to ask you where you work and you have to say, “I don’t have job” or “I got laid off” or “I was fired from my job.”  Trust me….it’s not a good feeling at all.  Then on top of that people keep asking you about it every time they see you or talk to you, which just adds to the “shame.”

Nonetheless, each unemployment period was a great time of reflection for me. I was able to ask myself some very pertinent questions. Who am I? What do I like to do? What am I good at?  What am I passionate about?  Where do I want to be in 5 years?  Why didn’t I save more money?  Were the job and my co-workers really that bad? And ultimately, what have I learned from this experience?  So if this is you right now and you woke up this morning with no job, I am hoping to give you a few tips that may help you cope with this time of unemployment and uncertainty.

1) Get Some Rest

Let me repeat….BE SURE TO GET PLENTY OF REST!!  When is the last time you slept past 9:00?  (I’ll wait.)  Well, now you can!!! It won’t be long before you are back in the “rat race” and having to set your alarm clock to get up at 5 or 6 AM, so enjoy your leisure lifestyle while you can.  I know some of you have a spouse and/or children who depend on you and you still have to get up each morning at a certain time, but you can make up for it by taking a mid-day nap.  Ya know, it occurred to me one day how busy I get and how little time I have to actually spend in the house that I am paying for.  I realized one day that I never really spend anytime in my guest bedrooms.  So while I was unemployed, I made up for it by taking naps in those rooms during the middle of the day. If you really want to be a rebel, don’t even get dressed and just lounge on the couch most of the day.  Hey, you are paying to live there so be sure to get your money’s worth!! Get some rest.

2) Reassess Needs And Wants

Unemployment is a perfect time to reflect on what you really need and want in your career.  Do you want to switch industries? Do you need a job with flextime so you can drop your kids off at daycare?  Do you want a job where you don’t have to go into the office everyday?  Do you want a job with a 15 – 20 minute commute?  Assess what you want and absolutely have to have in a job. In addition, you can Google ‘free career assessment test’ and take one of the many tests online to see what career might be best for you.  Even if you are an experienced professional, it may not be a bad idea to take the test just to affirm your strengths, weaknesses, personality type, etc.  The more honest you are with yourself and where you are in your career, the easier it will be for you to find a job that works best for you.

3) Develop A Plan

While I do suggest that you get some rest, I also highly suggest that you develop a plan of action after you’re done resting and reassessing. Your plan at minimal should consist of the following:

a) Updating your resume/cover letter – I suggest that you let a professional do this because you have an emotional attachment to the information and may not be able to market yourself appropriately.

b) Uploading your resume and setting up job search agents on websites – You may want to do a few general ones (indeed.com or simplyhired.com) and a few that are specific to your industry and city.  Five or six websites should suffice.

c) Saturating your network – Once you’ve updated your resume, send it to those in your network and let them know what you are interested in.  LinkedIn is great for increasing your network and communicating with people who may be able to help you.  You must also attend networking events and job fairs.  Remember, sometimes you have to be bold to reach your goals.

d) Applying for jobs – I know it seems silly to mention this, but I need to make it clear that you should be applying for jobs until you actually get one.  Don’t get the ‘big head’ and think just because you got through 2 or 3 interviews, you are guaranteed the job.  Even if you are 99% certain you will get the job offer, KEEP APPLYING TO OTHER JOBS!!!

4) Set Daily/Weekly Goals

If you are going to file for unemployment, they will have a goal for you which may be 4 or 5 job search activities each week.   But aside from that, you should set your own personal goals.  Determine what you want to accomplish each day and week.  Now, I will be honest and say that looking for jobs everyday can be a very monotonous and draining process.  So it is necessary for you to switch up your routine.  Some days you may get up first thing and look for a job and network with others.  Other times you may relax during the day and do your job searching at night.  During one of my unemployment periods, I would take my laptop to Barnes & Noble once a week and have lunch.  I would stay there 3 – 4 hours looking and applying for jobs; however, the time went by so fast because I was in a different environment.  For each time of unemployment, once I met my goal I stopped looking for the remainder of that week.  So if I met my goal by Wednesday, I didn’t look for a job Thursday – Saturday.   This actually motivated me to stay focused and find my jobs to apply for early in the week.

5) Get a New Hobby / Stay Involved

Think about all the times you said, “I wish I had more time to _____________________.”  Now you do!  Take advantage of the extra time you have to do the things you couldn’t before.  You can repaint your kitchen.  You can go on a field trip with your son or daughter.  You can get a membership to a gym or enroll in a salsa class.  If you are already involved in the community through your sorority/fraternity or a non-profit organization, be sure to stay involved.  This will keep you motivated and give your brain a chance to think of something other than your unemployment.

6) Reward Yourself For Your Accomplishments

Of course I don’t know where you are financially, so only you can decide what is an appropriate reward for yourself.  For some it may be something as relaxing as a manicure/pedicure or as simple as going out for ice cream or a movie.  For others it may be a weekend trip out-of-town or front row tickets to a concert.  Either way you should have rewards for yourself when you have accomplished those goals listed above.  It will keep you energized and motivated.  Even though you are unemployed, you still have to take care of yourself and your mental health.  Go ahead and spend a little on yourself…..you are worth it!

As you get older and mature, you realize you are much more than what your job title says you are.   You are much more than the name tag they gave you to wear at work. Use this time of unemployment to really get to know and fall in love with yourself. Who are you really? Being unemployed for some time can be a bit of a good thing.  I know it doesn’t feel good right now, but it will work out for your good.  I’ve learned to describe my time of unemployment as a time of transition.  I have learned to be still and listen to that small voice that says – YES YOU CAN and YES YOU WILL!  I know this isn’t what you had planned for your life, but guess what – dreams change.  Your dream job is right around the corner and it will be the perfect job for you.  Now let me boldly proclaim to you what I have had to whisper several times to myself….hold on, the best is yet to come!  This too shall pass!