The Employment Application is NOT a Formality!

Please just fill out this quick application…

Those seemingly simple words have stopped many a very qualified person from getting the job. Candidates willingly enter the required information but, for some reason, just don’t think that this data will be verified, or think that their amazing technical abilities will overcome any discrepancies. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  And when things don’t add up, red flags suddenly appear and can sometimes be fatal.  Here’s what you need to know about filling out an application:

  • First, there are some industries that are much more stringent than others.  If you are applying for a fulltime role in the medical, life sciences / pharmaceutical, insurance, legal, or financial industry, you better make sure that what you put down on that application is 110% accurate, because every bit of data will be examined and crunched.  If you aren’t sure of something, DON’T PUT IT ON THE APPLICATION.  Better to find out for certain that you do in fact have a certification, or a completed MBA versus putting it on the application and having to tap dance when discrepancies come up.
  • As far as things to put on the application, let’s start with a simple one, dates of employment.  Yes, it’s true that a lot of folks can’t remember if they started that C++ developer role on March 2nd or 3rd of 1995, but they are already a step ahead since they know it’s March!  Future employers check dates of employment, it’s as simple as that.  Try to be as accurate, down to the month, as possible and MAKE SURE YOUR DATES OF EMPLOYMENT ARE CORRECT.
  • Do you know where your diploma is?  If someone asked you to prove that you have your CCNP certification in the next ten minutes, could you do it?  If you think you graduated, even if you walked down the aisle in that cap and gown, be 100% sure about degrees and certifications when putting them down on an application.
  • What was your salary at your past positions?  Not how much you made with that 10% bonus, but rather what was your base salary?  This is what employers want to know first.  You can justify your salary requirements later at which point you can let them know about kickers like pensions, 401Ks, bonuses, car allowances, etc.  So when asked about past salary, list your BASE SALARY. Also, some companies even ask for W2 statements or pay stubs, so be sure to have all of this information at the ready…you never know.
  • Okay, so you are coasting now, you have your dates of employment down to the hour, you have your degrees in a lockbox under the bed, and have memorized all of your certification completion codes, but what about having people that can confirm that you are truly a wonderful employee.  I am talking about references.  Make sure that you have three references at the ready to put down on an application. Also make sure at least one reference is a manager or a superior that can attest to what a model employee you are.  And be sure that these references are ready to properly represent you.  It’s never a good thing when a reference is surprised to be contacted or doesn’t call back or, even worse, doesn’t speak highly of you.

I know, I know, a lot of this stuff seems like no-brainers, but that’s what gets people into trouble in the first place – they think that this information isn’t that important.

So you have everything ready, and your life is an open book, with a solid table of contents and all of your sources have been properly notated.  What’s left to do?

One final step is to make sure that your application and your resume live in perfect harmony and that all of the dates, company names, etc match.  Also, this is a good time to point out that if you worked as contractor through an agency, list both the company and agency name, as a background check company will need to confirm with the agency.

Applications are seemingly simple, but as your career grows, the information regarding that career becomes more and more voluminous.  It is a part of one’s professional identity.  So, just don’t misrepresent yourself, even if it’s an innocent oversight, because it could come around to bite you in the…


Scott MacKinnon – Recruiter



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One response to “The Employment Application is NOT a Formality!”

  1. my explanation says:

    So glad I found this information, thanks

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