How to Break Through the Constraints of the Standard Employment Application and Convey Your True Potential
They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In spite of the skyrocketing popularity of online recruiting, many employees looking for work in the hospitality industry frequently find themselves face to face with that classic feature of the pre-Internet era job search: the employment application.
Many hotel and restaurant properties in the industry are part of large chains or conglomerates whose corporate policies require completed applications from every job seeker. This may be for record-keeping purposes, or it may be intended to make things easier for the HR personnel who have to sort through hundreds of applications every month. Some properties even require job seekers who have initiated the application process online to complete a paper application before proceeding to the interview stage.
The Challenge of Communicating Your Unique Value on a Form
Everyone who has been in the market for a job before has probably filled out an application. For entry-level positions, there's not much to it. But as you begin to move up the professional ladder, filling out a standard job application can get a bit trickier.
In fact, the more experience, skills, and knowledge you've accumulated over the course of your career, the more complex the process of filling out a job application is likely to be. On one level, the physical constraints of the form itself can be aggravating -- it’s often virtually impossible to squeeze all of your relevant information onto a few tiny lines. But on a broader level, trying to convey the unique qualities that differentiate you from other applicants within the constraints of a generic form can be quite daunting.
The secret to mastering the job application form is developing a strategy that fits the format of and can readily be applied to many different application forms. Here are some guidelines that you can use to craft your own application strategy:
Think Like a PR Pro.
Individuals whose jobs entail day-to-day interaction with the media appreciate the value of a good sound byte. Look back over your career path to date and distill your most valuable skills and attributes into five or six brief, boldly-worded phrases. Memorize them and put them to use whenever you're called upon to fill out an application form.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
Whenever you pick up a physical application, request two or three copies. Not only does this provide you with a backup plan in case you make a mistake, but it will also allow you the luxury of completing a "rough draft" version of the form. Use the pencil on your practice run, and keep working on it until you get everything just right.
Follow the Form's Instructions to the Letter.
This may sound like common sense, but any experienced HR staff member or hiring managers can spend hours telling horror stories about job seekers who disregarded basic instructions on their application forms. Even if it's just an honest mistake on your part, an incorrectly completed application may send a message that you're not serious about the position. Read the instructions carefully before beginning to fill out the form.
The hiring manager probably won't be assigning you a grade for penmanship, but it's important to make sure your completed paper application form is as visually appealing as possible. Take your time and write slowly and thoughtfully to reduce the risk of mistakes. A tidy, error-free application will convey the message that you're the conscientious type who takes pride in a job well done. Similarly, make sure your electronic application is grammar and error-free.
Be as Complete as Possible.
Resist the temptation to speed through your application, leaving it riddled with blanks and "see résumé's." Even if the information is duplicated on your résumé, fill it out on your application, as well. The two documents might be channeled through different routes in the company, and you want everyone who sees your application to be able to recognize your potential value. If a question on the application truly does not apply to you, mark the form with a neat "N/A."
Getting your message across within the constraints of a standard employment application form can be difficult, but once you approach the process strategically, many of the frustrations of this format can be eliminated. Armed with these tips, you'll be much better equipped to fill out an application form in a way that will get you noticed -- and hired.