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Avoiding the application trap


School’s out and for many young people that means one thing: it’s time to find a summer job.

Yet too often, the search for summer work leads young job seekers on exhausting drives from one employer to the next, only to leave them with a fistful of blank job applications at the end of the day. Not to mention the harsh reality that rarely do these applications do anything but collect dust in a filing cabinet.

“Many people think that filling out an application is the same as applying for a job — it isn’t. Most employers use applications to screen people out, not in,” say Michael Farr and Marie A. Pavlicko, Ed.D., co-authors of Young Person’s Guide to Getting and Keeping a Good Job.

Whether it’s paper or electronic, job applications should not be the obstacle that keeps a young job seeker from getting his foot in the door with employers. To avoid this trap, Farr and Pavlicko offer the following guidelines:

Picking up and dropping off applications

– Dress appropriately when you pick up, fill out, or drop off applications.

– Do not bring anyone else with you when you apply for a job or go on interviews.

– If possible, complete applications at home so you can fill them out with the greatest care.

– Be sure to proofread your applications to correct any errors.

– Try to meet employers to hand in applications directly and ask for interviews. If unable to do so, be sure to call each employer after a few days to make sure the employer received your application.

– Tell the employer you are still interested in the position and would like to set up an interview.

– Allow extra time in your schedule when you return an application — just in case the employer asks you to stay for an interview.

Completing the application

– Have all the information available you’ll need to fill out the application (such as phone numbers, addresses, references, etc.)

– Follow the instructions. Read each section carefully before completing it.

– Use an erasable black pen.

– Take your time, avoid crossouts.

– Be accurate. Do not guess at an answer.

– Fill in every blank. Use N/A (not applicable) or a short dash when something does not apply to you.

– Write clearly and neatly. You can only make one impression, so make it a good one.

– Emphasize your skills and accomplishments. Find a place to mention your strengths even if the application does not ask for them.

– If you are short on paid work experience, mention your volunteer work and related hobbies under the “Former Employers” section.

– Get permission before using a reference.

– Sign the application if requested.