Make Your Job Application Stand Out: Tips from HR Guru Brian Philips
I 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 Harvis.org, and this is what he said (via e-mail, naturally) after I initially contacted him.
i really like your idea :)
ide be glad to till you abut the HR nightmares involving writing.
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.
Staci Layne Wilson is a freelancer in the entertainment and fashion field. She blogs about the celebrities she interviews at I Dress, Therefore I Blog and tweets about her coffee breaks at Twitter / StaciWilson.
What's more, she had her first article published in a national magazine when she was 12, and has been writing professionally ever since.
She's had seven novels published, as well as three non-fiction books. Staci writes regularly for L'Ecran Fantastique Magazine, is an Editor-At-Large for Buzzine Magazine, and has several online outlets for her movie reviews and celebrity interviews. She is an on-camera reporter for TV-Wire and the SyFy Channel. Her website is (appropriately enough) StaciLayneWilson.com.