Your Job Search: Filling Out a Job Application
Many employers will ask you to complete a job application. Your application gives the employer important information about you, including your contact details (address, telephone number, email address, etc.), education, skills, and job history. Sometimes you’ll fill out the application online and then submit it online. Other times, especially for smaller companies, you’ll print the application, fill it out in black or blue pen, and then mail or fax it to the employer. You may also visit a business and fill out an application there. However, it’s reasonable to ask if you can take an application home to complete and return later. That allows you to take your time and check your work.
Tip: Take home two copies of the application so you can use one as a draft.
Applications completed in ink require you to write legibly. All applications tell the employer something about your ability to:
- Read and follow directions
- Provide clear, accurate information
An application that is incomplete or has misspellings can keep you from getting a job. So it’s important to practice filling out application forms neatly and accurately. It's also important to understand the terms that are commonly used on application forms.
Terms and Definitions
CitizenshipMark "USA" if you were born or naturalized in the United States; otherwise, list the country of your birth.
D.O.B.Your date of birth (follow the directions for order of month, day, and year)
EducationThe high school you attended (include name of school, city and state, years attended, and year of graduation)
Emergency Contact PersonSomeone the company can call in case of emergency (your spouse, parent, neighbor, etc.)
Place of birthCity and state where you were born. If you were not born in the USA, include the country of your birth.
ReferencesNames and job titles, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of people who can provide information about your past jobs or volunteer experiences, performance as a student, and so on. Be sure to ask people in advance before listing them on an application.
Work HistoryThe names of employers you have worked for, their locations, your job titles, and the dates of employment. List your most recent job first and work backwards in chronological order. If you are asked “Reason for Leaving,” be honest but write something acceptable like “to look for a more challenging position” or “to pursue further training.”
When you go to a place of employment to complete an application, be sure to take with you:
- Two pens
- Your photo identification (driver's license, state ID, passport)
- A data sheet or sample application, filled in ahead of time, that you can refer to when completing the actual job application. Check out the website listed below for various kinds of sample forms.
Tips to consider when completing a job application:
- Answer every question. If the question doesn't apply to you, write "N/A" for not applicable.
- Give an acceptable reason for leaving previous jobs, such as "to take a more challenging position" or "to go back to school."
- Be sure to ask people if you may use as them as references before you list their names on an application.
- If the application asks for your expected salary, write "open" or "negotiable," unless you have specific requirements. If you request a salary that is too high, you may price yourself out of the job. It's often better to interview first and have a chance to present yourself as the right person for the job before discussing salary.
- Be neat. Check over your application for accuracy before you turn it in.
View sample employment application forms
Print out a blank form, complete it, and bring it with you for reference when you visit businesses during your job search.