Make Your Job Application Stand Out: Tips from HR Guru Brian Philips

job applicationI recently had an experience with an e-mail interview for an article, in which the respondent's answers to my questions were all written in lowercase. This meant extra work for me, as I had to go through all of the text to correct it before it could be posted online. There were also several emoticons and a couple of misspellings, making me wonder if perhaps this person had written his answers out while texting (and probably driving).

Then I got to wondering if people also fill out job applications like that. And if they do, is it "wrong"? After all, protocol does change and morph with the advent of new technologies and social mores. To answer my question I called upon an expert in the world of Human Resources, Brian Phillips of, and this is what he said (via e-mail, naturally) after I initially contacted him.

staci :)

i really like your idea :)

ide be glad to till you abut the HR nightmares involving writing.

tks! cya!

Okay... Did I cover the spelling typos, case errors and emoticons in enough depth? You're right in that these issues are prevalent, however there is no room for it in a professional résumé or letter -- even an e-mail. Friend-to-friend communication is spilling into professional communication. PDAs, e-mail letter formats and even how we address people in e-mail has changed from the formal style.

Q. How has the application process changed over the years, going from having a job-seeker have to physically come in and fill out a paper application, to applying online?

A. Brian Philips: The process I set up for public access to applications is multi-faceted. The applicant may complete an interactive .pdf application from the web, or print it; then complete it in pen to submit by fax or by dropping it off in person. Regardless of the approach, I am always surprised at the way applicants will omit information or fail to follow directions on the application. To this end, the electronic applications I design for clients enable me to set up required fields that must be completed before the system will allow the application to be forwarded by e-mail. This in itself can be considered a screening tool if a candidate gives up before completing an application.

Q. What do you think about applications in which you see mistakes, poor spelling, or difficult handwriting?

A. The hiring manager wants to know the basics on each applicant to quickly decide if the submitted application meets the minimum requirements for consideration -- it is a simple pass-or-fail approach. There's no reason why anything submitted electronically should be misspelled. Run the spell checker before submitting electronic applications.

In terms of paper applications, they are still very common in most businesses where technology hasn't been introduced to streamline their applicant screening process. The employee should do their best to fill out the application completely and truthfully while printing clearly within the areas specified. Many people write today in a mix of capital and lower case longhand and printed letters. I'm also guilty of that, but it makes sense to try to write deliberately and clearly when filling out an application.

Sloppy, illegible writing isn't worth decoding. The hiring manager immediately sees the future with benefit applications being returned from the carrier because the data entry people can't read them, work orders being illegible, and inter-company communications like unreadable timesheets causing corrections to be made later.

Employees who tend to write in micro-print should write in a normal size that can be read by people with bad eyes. Live on the edge, and fill the space provided with your words of expertise. The larger print shows confidence and can help make your point.

Next: What Your Handwriting Says About You >>

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
Vlad Weber

Making apps for different industries is no longer a problem. I used Snappii service to create custom data collection apps and it was easy to use though I am not a programmer.

September 19 2013 at 8:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Angie Burton

There's a great way to make a job application stand out that a lot of people don't know about. Similar to how a cover letter highlights a resume, you can add a removable cling to your job application (sort of like a post it note) that highlights your best qualities, goals, and accomplishments. Check out the blog at for more ideas and also if you don't have the resources to create your own removable cling, you can customize and get them on this same website, too. My daughter used them on her job applications because she had no work experience and she got called for 2 interviews and got the job she really wanted. Six other of her friends used them and they all got jobs, too.

May 31 2011 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Job Openings

hello, how are you.I like to this web a job.

Job Openings

October 29 2010 at 6:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stacie, if you are in MS Word, you select from the top menu "Edit", then "select all" & use the "change case" option to "sentence case". That will capitalize all the lower case sentences. Each version of MS Word has a different way of using the "change case" option, but all versions have it.

June 12 2010 at 10:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stacie, if youn are in MS CWord,m youn can edit, mthen n"select all" & use the "change case" option to "sentence case". That will capitalize all the lower case sentences.

June 12 2010 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul D. Steinberg

No email received!

June 10 2010 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web