When hiring managers post jobs, many times they get many more applications than they care to go through. They want to find that needle in the haystack that is the perfect person for the job, but it can be incredibly tedious to go through a pile of applications.
Hiring managers look for things to weed out people who are unlikely to be successful in the job. They also want to get the hiring process over as soon as possible, especially if the position has been vacant for a while.
Don’t make your application one of the first ones discarded. Avoiding these common job application mistakes will help keep your application out of the garbage before the hiring manager gets serious about compiling a list of finalists
1. Not Following Instructions on the Job Posting or Application Form
Like in grade school, the instructions for any assignment are incredibly important. Most people have had the experience of a teacher handing out a quiz with directions at the top saying to write your name and answer none of the questions. This trick is designed to teach students the importance of reading directions before beginning a task.
Some adults still haven’t learned that lesson. Follow instructions in the job posting and on the application form. Failing to do so will get your application thrown away because it shows the hiring manager that you lack attention to detail.
2. Leaving Fields Blank on the Application
Human resources professionals and attorneys spend hours creating and revising application forms. Leaving fields blank leaves the hiring manager with less information about you than he or she has about other candidates.
Much like neglecting the application form’s directions, leaving fields blank shows a lack of attention to detail. Tossing incomplete applications is an easy way for a hiring manager to cut down the number of applications that must be considered.
3. Turning in the Application Late
There is no legitimate excuse for turning in an application late. Even if you discover the job posting until two hours before it closes, you must get the application turned in on time. Hiring managers have very little information for basing their decisions. If the only thing you have ever turned into this person is late, that doesn’t bode well.
If a hiring manager already has a sizable applicant pool by the closing date, the hiring manager may discard all applications turned in past the deadline. Hiring managers cannot toss out one late application simply for lateness without doing the same to all late applications. As long as they do this with all late applications, they are justified in doing so.
4. Spelling and Grammatical Errors
Spelling and grammatical errors look unprofessional on job applications. If you know you’re a bad speller or self-editor, get someone to proofread your application or at the very least run it through the spell check feature of a word processing program. One or two errors probably won't get your application tossed in the garbage, but several of them will.
Make sure you know the commonly misspelled words on government job applications. A job application is too important a document not to make sure it is error-free.
5. Not Explaining Gaps in Employment
Gaps in employment are not always a bad thing, but they do raise a red flag for hiring managers. If left unexplained, hiring managers will assume the worst.
When you have a gap in employment, be sure to explain what happened. Don't let a hiring manager assume you were fired for cause when you really left to take care of a sick parent or newborn child.
If you left on bad terms, say so. It is better that a potential employer find out this information from you up front than later in a reference check with a previous supervisor. You may have only a small box on the application to enter your explanation, so be careful how you write your reason. If the space is available and it is appropriate for the situation, explain what you learned from that experience.
6. Not Including All Required Attachments
When a job posting requires more than a completed application form, the organization is telling you that they will use these additional materials to make the hiring decision. If you omit these materials, the hiring manager is missing information to compare you with other applicants. Therefore, the hiring manager will throw out applications that do not include all the required attachments.
7. Failing to Tailor Application Materials to Each Job
When you apply for a job, you want to show the hiring manager that you are the right fit for the job. The best way to do this is to tailor your qualifications to the knowledge, skills and abilities listed in the job posting. Whether accurate or inaccurate, failing to do this shows the hiring manager that you do not care enough about getting the job to spend the time to thoughtfully consider what the job entails and how to show that you can do it.
Experienced managers can spot a person’s base cover letter. If you don’t take the time to write a new cover letter or at least edit your default one, why should a hiring manager take the time to read what you send in for every other job?
8. Applying to a Job You Are Obviously Overqualified For
Hiring managers want new hires that are a good fit for the position and will stay for a reasonable amount of time. Someone with a doctoral degree and 20 years of experience in academic research who applies for an administrative technician position can obviously perform the tasks required for the job; however, this person is almost certainly a bad hire. Such an individual is overqualified for the position. This person would find the position boring and would begin looking for work soon after coming onboard.
Applying for a position far beneath your credentials looks suspicious. Hiring managers wonder what went wrong in previous jobs that cause you to seek for a job that appears beneath your abilities.
9. Applying to a Job You Are Obviously Unqualified For
Do not apply to be an astronaut if the last math class you took was Algebra II. Applying for a job you are obviously unqualified for wastes your time and the employer's time. If you do this consistently, you will develop a reputation for taking wild shots in the dark with your job applications, so when people see you apply for a job you’re qualified for, they’ll be less likely to take you seriously.
10. Leaving the Reader Confused
When hiring managers look at application materials, they want a clear and concise picture of what each candidate will bring to the job. Using too many big words will bore readers and make them want to stop half-way. Be as brief as possible while giving a thorough explanation of your work history and why you would be good for the job.
Make sure that your ending and beginning dates for each job are accurate. A typographical error on a year will confuse readers. It could look like you have an unexplained gap in employment or that you held two jobs at the same time when you really did not.