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Applying for Jobs

Filling out an application form is not hard, but it can be stressful and frustrating. The hints and tips below can help you avoid the common mistakes many job applicants make. Review the information, and click here to refer to the Sample Job Application.

Job Application Tips

Whenever possible, pick up the application form the day before you turn it in. Fill out the application at home. If a form looks difficult, photocopy it before you begin. Then practice writing your responses on the photocopy before completing the actual form.

Read the form before you write anything. Pay close attention to the directions. When you are ready to write, use a pen. Black ink is often required. Buy erasable pens so that you can change answers easily.

You must write something in every space for you application to be complete. If a question does not apply to you, write N/A, which means not applicable.

Your application generally will not be considered unless it is signed and dated. By signing the application, you are agreeing that the information you have given on the form is true. Always tell the truth. If an employer finds out that your application contains false information, you will not be hired. If you are hired and the employer finds out later that you lied on the application, you may be fired.

Check your application for mistakes before you turn it in. Double-check telephone numbers carefully, especially your own. Check your spelling.  Remember: The application form shows the quality of work you can do. If you make careless mistakes on the application, the employer may believe you will make careless mistakes on the job.

Some application questions require you to write several sentences or a paragraph. Employers include these questions to see how well you write. Before you fill out this portion of an application form, draft your answer on a separate piece of paper. Revise and edit, keeping these tips in mind:

  • Always use complete sentences.
  • Check your spelling carefully.
  • Make sure you stay on topic.
  • Make sure you answer the question completely.
  • Copy the final draft onto the application form.



Get Ready!   Get Set!  Write!

When applying for jobs, you need to know the facts about your qualifications and skills. Take time now to create a fact sheet (You can use the Sample Job Application form!), making sure all information is accurate and spelled correction:

  • Make a list of your work, education, and volunteer experiences.
  • List the starting and ending dates for each experience—use the most specific date possible.  Some employers will ask for day, month and year.
  • For each experience, write the name of someone you might use as a reference.
  • Summarize the duties or activities for each experience.

See Write Resume and Cover Letters for more tips on how to describe your experience and skills.


Dealing with arrests or convictions – what you need to know

Employment applications are legal documents and must be filled out completely and accurately. If you lie on a job application, you can be fired later for falsifying a document.

Laws vary from state to state on whether and how an employer may consider an applicant's arrest and/or conviction history in making hiring decisions. Some states prohibit employers from asking about arrests, convictions that occurred well in the past, juvenile adjudications or sealed records. Some states allow employers to consider convictions only if the crimes are relevant to the job. Most of the time, though, job applications DO include questions about your criminal background, and you should be prepared to complete this part of the job application honestly, completely and directly. Do not assume that you can’t be hired because of your criminal history.

A conviction is a guilty plea or a court’s finding of guilt for a “crime” or an “offense.” You MAY have a conviction on your record even though you didn’t serve any jail time. The sentence for a conviction could include probation, a fine, community service, or conditional or unconditional discharge. You should check with an attorney to understand whether various offenses are considered “convictions” for purposes of completing a job application.

REMEMBER:  Read the question carefully and answer only what the question asks. 

Applications might ask only about felony convictions, or they may ask about all convictions — felonies and misdemeanors. Some applications will ask for your conviction history only for a specific time period. In any case, you always need to know these facts about your case:

  • Date of disposition (When was your case decided?)
  • Jurisdiction (Where was your case decided—city, state and court) 
  • Disposition (outcome) of your case (Did it result in conviction or was it dismissed?)
  • The specific name of the offense (Was it “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated?")
  • The sentence (including jail time, youth detention, community service, etc.)

Write down this information and have it with you when you go to fill out job applications!

Don’t leave any questions blank on a job application. Give the information the application asks for, but add that you “will discuss in interview.”

You also must be prepared to talk about your convictions during the job interview. Use the information you put together for the application (see above) to develop a brief summary of the circumstances surrounding your conviction.

Remember:  Employers want to hear THREE things from you about your criminal history:

  • Admit your guilt … even if you believe you didn’t do anything wrong.

  • Emphasize that you learned a lot from the experience and that you know that nothing like that will ever happen again.

  • Tell the employer that you are looking for a chance to get a new start and develop new skills that will help you be successful in the workforce!

You also should highlight any successes and accomplishments you have made since the conviction and provide evidence of rehabilitation. For example, if convictions were drug-related, offer letters from treatment providers/counselors confirming your recovery.  If you earned your diploma or GED since the conviction, or have gotten into college, be sure to mention it.


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