People often feel frustrated with the want ads, and for good reason. The want ads never present a good cross-section of the jobs that are available on any given day. Instead, the advertised positions tend to be poor-quality jobs, or jobs which are so rigid in their requirements that few people qualify. These types of jobs are rarely filled by internal or external referrals, and therefore advertising becomes the option of choice. Of course there are also some good jobs advertised that are not overly specialized, but these are in a definite minority.
There are also some types of jobs that are virtually never advertised because all the potential candidates make direct contact with employers. That's what happens in industries such as advertising, public relations, television, and radio, among others. That also explains why some people are telling their friends that the reason they haven't found a job yet is because there aren't any. They know there aren't any jobs because none has been advertised. What these people don't know, and what you do know, is that those jobs do exist. And the people who get those jobs are the ones who practice the principles of the Systematic Job Search.
In fact some people seem to believe that there must be a law that requires companies to advertise positions. A client once related an interesting story which demonstrates this point. She was leaving her management position. Because she was so highly valued, the organization allowed her to handle the initial screening of applicants for the position. Three months earlier she had met two people who were interested in her type of work. She confided in them that she would be leaving in the next few months. While she was accepting applications for her position, she called the two people who had expressed interest. Both were still interested, but neither had taken any action because they had not seen the position advertised. The position had been posted internally, however, and was never going to be advertised because there were plenty of qualified people responding without advertising.
Employers like application forms because they provide the type of information which makes it easy to screen people out. For example, the application form makes it easy to spot people with gaps in their employment and to discover why a person left a position. Usually so little space is provided for job descriptions on an application form that you wonder if the employer really wants to know much about what you've done. While the resume is your document and gives you the best opportunity to sell yourself on paper, the application is clearly the employer's document. Since most people treat application forms rather casually, you will stand out when you use the application to sell yourself and make the most of your background.
People fill out applications to apply for specific jobs which have been advertised or posted, or to simply let an employer know that they are available if certain types of jobs open up. Filling out applications can take considerable time. If you utilize the concepts of the Systematic Job Search, you will seldom fill out application forms except for those jobs you actually get interviews for. If most of your appointments are with the people who have the power to hire, rather than with personnel department staffers, you will rarely fill out an application except as a final formality after you have been offered the position.
My experience has shown me that merely going around filling out application forms is not an effective job search strategy and is a waste of time for most people. It can work well for some, however, particularly for clerical workers and those who work in factories.
If you intend to fill out lots of application forms, do it the smart way. First, identify all of the organizations you may be interested in and put their names and addresses on 4 x 6 notecards. When you're through filling out your cards, arrange the organizations by their geographical location. Then, target a certain area each day and concentrate on visiting organizations within that specific area.
Next, obtain an application form and take it home with you. Fill out the form carefully and thoroughly. This will be your model for all of the other forms you fill out. It will cut in half the time you'll spend filling out application forms. In addition, once you're working from a model, the forms will be more complete and neater. Since very little space is generally provided for you to describe your duties, write small, using your resume to help you compose. Even when writing small, however, you probably won't be able to include everything.
Although you should leave a resume with the application form, do not say, "See attached resume," and then leave the job description sections of the application form blank. The resume may get detached from the application. Worst of all, that tactic is often viewed by those in personnel as one of the biggest sins committed by job seekers. So, never do it. Instead, concentrate on your key duties and take your time to write your model job descriptions.
When creating your model, be sure you get the current addresses and phone numbers of your former employers and former supervisors. If a supervisor you'd get a good reference from has gone to another organization, track that person down and let him or her know to expect calls from prospective employers. If your former boss has left and you would not get a good reference from that person, identify someone else in the organization that you may have worked for at one time. Or list your boss' boss if you believe that person would give you a good reference.
If you are going to visit many organizations, make the most of it. Fill out the application on location. As you do so, see what you can learn about the organization. Are the people friendly and helpful? While you shouldn't judge the whole organization by the few people that you come in contact with, paying attention can provide you with some insight about the organization.
If you are applying for a specific position, make sure that everything you include will help sell you into that position.
Tips on Filling out Application Forms
Take your sample application with you at all times. It eliminates your need to memorize phone numbers and addresses, and ensures that your application will be well written and thorough. Remember, an application can be filled out in half the time when you have a sample to work from.
Write or print as neatly as you can. Employers make decisions based on impressions. A messy application causes unfavorable impressions. Always write in ink. If you mess something up, ask for another form.
Be truthful in all your statements. Most applications specify that providing false information is grounds for immediate dismissal. Often there are positive ways to explain an embarrassing past such as having been fired. People often inflate their past salaries when completing applications, hoping to obtain a higher starting salary. The risk of being perceived as dishonest, however, is not worth it. Some companies will contact your last employer after you've been hired. If you've fudged on your application, it could mean losing your new position.
Most applications ask your reason for leaving each employer, Keep your responses positive with statements like, "Offered higher salary and greater opportunity for advancement," rather than using statements like, "Couldn't get along with boss," or "Wasn't getting anywhere in the company." If you have been laid off due to cutbacks, say so with phrases like "Reduction in work force/' rather than using negative terms like "fired." If you have been fired from a recent position, develop as positive a response as you can. In this section of the application, employers are also looking for evidence of job hopping. If they see a number of statements like, "Boss and I did not agree on how to run the department," employers will assume that the same problem is likely to arise if you work for their organization.
If asked, "Are you willing to relocate?" indicate "yes," unless you are applying for a clerical position, or one that you know would never require you to relocate. Applications often ask if you are willing to travel. Again, indicate "yes" on the application, but in an interview determine how much travel would be involved.
It is illegal to ask certain questions on an application. Know your rights! Questions concerning marital status are illegal. An application may ask if outside activities will interfere with your work schedule, but it cannot ask how your children are taken care of or whether a husband or wife is employed. Questions about having children and questions about pregnancy are also illegal.
Some applications will ask about disabilities. Such questions may be worded in this fashion: "Describe a handicap, major illness, or injury which might require accommodation," or "Do you have any handicaps or health problems that may affect your ability to perform the job applied for?" You must list only those problems which would affect your ability to perform the job. For example, if you have a bad back, but the job you are applying for would require only light lifting, you would not mention the back problem on the application or during interviews.
Space for listing professional, trade, business, or civic activities is often provided. Most will have a statement telling you to leave off any organizations which indicate race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or veteran's status. Even if such a statement is not included, those types of organizations should usually be left off. Exceptions would be those you really want an employer to know about because they will help sell you. Women should feel free to list organization such as Women in Management, but would leave off politically-based organizations such as the National Organization of Women (NOW). Men would also leave off the names of controversial organizations they belong to. List offices you've held. The space can also be used to list licenses or various types of awards or honors.
Applications which ask for general information give you an opportunity to say anything you want that will sell you. The section may be worded, "State any additional information you feel may be helpful to us in considering your application." Use such sections to your best advantage.