How You Are Filtered And Judged Before They Even Know You
APPLICATION FORMS: How to get to the interview stage.
Finding work and getting an invite to an interview is an often long, slow and judgemental process. Yes, a judgemental process. Before you even set eyes on a prospective employer they will have often made a judgement on your abilities and suitability for the post through your application form.
It is at this point that they may just discard it or even just throw it away. Harsh I know. They do not know what you have to offer yet. How can you stop this from happening?
So let’s have a look at a typical general application form and let me help you to improve on your form filling ways (if you need it).
The first rule you MUST follow is to have at least 2 copies of the application form. The second rule you MUST follow is to READ the application form first. Yes I know that sometimes we want to just jump straight in as we are enthusiastic, but seriously READ AND RE-READ. What colour pen is required? Does it need BLOCK CAPITALS?
Lastly, make sure you RESEARCH the company before you put pen to paper. What are their values, aims, missions, goals, customer approach and staff approach? Get as much information as you can.
Before I go further I want to give a recent example of how my own son faced this judgement. 1 week after his 16th birthday he decided he wanted extra money (as most teenagers do), so armed with wad of CV’s (courtesy of his mum) and a carefully completed application form we set off to hand them out (find out more about this approach (speculative – spec) in my book – How To Get On The Employment Ladder). At only just turned 16 I did not hold out much hope to be honest as I felt he would be too much of a liability for some employers due to his age. Anyway, what do I know!
We then went into a well known toy store and he asked politely about any jobs available and they informed him they were setting on. They asked him to complete an application form there and then. So after we waited 10 minutes for a pen (I’m a single mum so no, I was not prepared – lol) he carefully wrote out his application form. He is the first one to admit that his writing is not the neatest – so what. It is still good enough and he fully completed the form giving great answers.
He then handed it back to the supervisor and he was quite off with us when he said it should be in BLUE INK. My son apologised and explained it was the one he was given. He then politely informed the supervisor that he is available for any hours, evening and weekends and really enthusiastic about the prospective job role.
He really had taken on board everything I had taught him, yes taught, not read as he had gaming to do!! Anyway, I felt sure that they would get back in touch, even to say “look I am really sorry but you have not been successful”. But they didn’t. Not a word.
My impression of that company went downhill, I do feel that the pen colour and the fact that it was not the neatest application form went against him. For crying out loud, he’d just turned 16. Anyway I am not bitter – ok, just a bit.
So after our two days of handing out CV’s/application forms we headed home and then he received a phone call. Could he attend an interview in two days time? Whoop, of course he could.
Then he received another phone call from another top retailer asking him if he would do a phone interview to see if he was to be put for a GROUP interview. Oh my days, he really must have learnt something as he put in use everything I had said and was successful in both the telephone interview and the group interview.
So why have I given you this example?
HE WAS JUDGED at the application form stage by one retailer. But, he ended up in a position at 16 of turning down interviews. The feedback he has been given from his supervisor and manager is very encouraging and I am so grateful they gave him a chance.
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR APPLICATION FORMS?
So let me guide you through a typical application form. Remember, the error examples I give is because I have seen them day in day out:
1. FORENAMES – This is your first name. Now just humour me as I have seen hundreds over the years crossed out because the Surname has been put there.
2. POSTCODE – Is UN6 9JK and not un6 9jk. It is all CAPITAL LETTERS.
3. YES/NO – Quite often we are required to circle/cross out the relevant one. But because we don’t read it first we sometimes put a line through both as we have done it on the wrong one! We may then re-write it in. They will judge you as being careless, no accuracy skills, no attention or enthusiasm etc at the above stages already. They may have put your application form in the bin.
4. DON’T HAVE GAPS – You may need to also put down your work history/school grades on an application form. Make sure you have your CV with you and you can account for each year.
At the above stage the employer may wonder what you have been doing with your time if there is a gap. Have you served time at Her Maj’s Pleasure? Have you been bringing up your family? Or have you been actively looking for work? Don’t give them any reason to judge you negatively. Each one of the above is easily explainable.
5. YOUR PREVIOUS EMPLOYER – On this part of the application form you may be asked position held and why you left. Please do not put on, “SACKED as I did not get along with my boss.” Even if you were, you will not get to the interview stage with this response on your application form.
6. SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE – You may be asked to give examples of skills and experience. This is where you RESEARCH the job role and company to see how you can match yourself to the job.
They may ask a typical interview question such as: “Why do you want to work for ……….?” Again, play this smart. Look at what they stand for, do a bit of brown nosing (or butt kissing – but not to come across as too smarmy or creepy). If you have used the company before tell them how much you love their products etc.
7. COMPETENCE BASED QUESTIONS – You could be asked on the application form a set of Competency Based questions. Basically this means they want to know if you are capable of carrying out certain tasks (more in my book about this). Competent just means able.
8. SIGN AND DATE – Do not forget to put on your signature and the date. However, make sure you date the form the day you send it. Do not put a date on it and then send it two weeks after. What could this tell the prospective employer? You are not that enthusiastic, you are careless, not organised etc.
YOU MUST READ THIS – THE MOST NEGLECTED BOX ON AN APPLICATION FORM
I have almost finished, yeah yeah I know I can go on, but it is really important you take note of this next bit.
So imagine, you have spent hours (you better have been) on your application form. You are even getting quite angry and frustrated and almost want to give in. You turn the page, Oh “Fetching Days” – Ta Mr P. Another box. Have they not got enough information already?
This box simply says:
IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER INFORMATION PLEASE WRITE IN THE BOX BELOW
That is all. There will be a small space (or if it is on the computer you can put in as much as you like) to add any other information.
What are you thinking? Yes, so does usually 96% of people – “I will leave it blank as I have answered enough and I will just be repeating myself as I have nothing else to put down”.
WRONG. This box is your last time to shine. So what if you have put loads down, put more down. Match yourself even more to the company and to the job role. What do you think your job entails? Google it and match yourself again.
NEVER, EVER leave this box empty.
Okay, I think you get the picture that completing a general application form takes time. Remember, this is just a basic one. They should take you from 2 hours to a few days to complete. Yes, that long.
Ask yourself this question, “How long do I usually spend on application forms?”
If the answer is under 1 hour then this must STOP. You are not putting in enough effort. Sorry but you are not. You are allowing yourself to be judged before they have even seen you.
If you have a longer application form it will take you even longer.
Another example from my own experience was when I was told I was to lose my job. I gathered my thoughts (as you would need to with this news 😦 ) and knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it. Then both of these places advertised jobs which I would have loved to have done. Both of these application forms was for within the teaching sector, so the application forms were quite long – (yes, okay like this blog ha ha).
Anyway, I sat down and did all of the above and took two whole weekends to complete each application form (not an easy task being a single parent of two teenage boys I can tell you).
But I took my time and really sold my skills then sold my skills even more. There was also one of those often neglected boxes as mentioned above. And you’ve got it, I sold my skills even more; I made sure I used all of my previous job roles and transferrable skills.
Did I get an invite to an interview for either job role? No!!
Yes I did (my Yorkshire humour), for both in fact. By this point I had already been offered 2 job roles (what a position to be in) and decided to go and work for a brand new Training Provider – Blue Apple Training, whose values and beliefs match my own.
Hopefully you will have gathered more knowledge about application forms. This is just a tiny bit, but hopefully you will put this into practice. Without the time and effort at the start, you will struggle to get to the interview stage.
Don’t get filtered before they have even met you.
Keep me updated of any progress you have made.
Thanks for reading, please pass this on to any sources etc to help me keep promoting my book:
How to get on the employment ladder; you have the skills now learn to use them
Available from Amazon and other online retailers and to download onto Kindle.
Thanks once again and good luck. Remember, you have the skills I am just trying to get them to the front of your brain as they may have been buried by pressures and strains of life.
AUTHOR: TRACEY MOREWOOD