I have written several times about the importance of making a favorable first impression. I've seen numerous glaring errors on job applications. Just one clouds the best applicants' chances and it is time for this madness to end.
The application is one item that will be before everyone in your selection process and then added to your permanent human resources file. In other words, everyone important will see it before they see you. Make it readable, clear, and correct!
Type or Print Clearly
If the application instructions state the information is to be printed or typed, do it. I was reviewing some applicant files with my executive assistant Michelle the other day and we made note of several errors that derail your application.
Print; this is a very simple direction. Notice I said "print." I have seen hieroglyphics, longhand (cursive), near doodles, and mixtures of all of these combined. Just print. And if you have the option to fill out your application online, do so.
Contractions, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
I usually don't allow these in most formal works. However, on an application your space is at a premium. Using an abbreviation for a state (GA, NY, etc.) or your degree (B.A., A.A., etc.) is fine, just as long as you use the accepted ones. Acronyms worry me. There has to be a billion of them and the very one you use may have multiple meanings. Yes, I have seen some self-made ones that set me to wonder.
Most applications require black ink for ease of photocopying. Some may also allow blue ink. Read what the directions state. Under no circumstances should you ever use pastels, glitter ink, or other inventive ways to express yourself. Yes, I've seen these as well.
Clean and Professional
If you can make copies of the original, make good crisp ones for the presentation. Papers that are crumpled or covered with coffee or other stains that require DNA testing are not too professional. Keep it clean and professional. I have seen mistake cover-up liquid, correction tape, doodles, and my all-time winner…flowers with a happy face (this was an intern who did not get selected).
Good Copies of Documents
If the application requires you to attach copies of important documents, make good clear copies. Off-centered, too small (do not try to put all on one page), and out of focused copies may be rejected. Make sure you also write on any addendum papers your name, just in case they get jumbled.
Hint: If you are making several applications, take time, go to the copy store and make several copies of each important document. The most requested ones will be on hand for later applications. It saves you time and frustration.
Good Order or Good Riddance
If you have to prepare a packet, put it in order. The cover letter should be on the top, followed by the agency application. Follow with the copies in order of their request. If you do add a résumé, announce on the cover letter that it is attached.
The big secret on applications is two-fold. One, you want to make this process as easy as you can for those who process it. If they cannot read it, it is incomplete, or it is just so horrible to deal with, you are catching a ride on the rejection train.
Secondly, and most important, this is your first chance to impress others. The application does far more than offer the demographics and life history of the applicant. It tells me that you can follow directions, which is a sought after trait in a police officer.
Train hard, train smart and train like your life is on the line.