Filling Out a Job Application Form

You’ve written your resume. Now you want to know how to fill out your job application form. The following questions are from job seekers who emailed Yana Parker for her advice. Note: these questions were asked several years ago when most job applications were filled out as hardcopy.

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I left my last job because of all the lying. How do I deal with that?

Dear Yana,
I’m stumped by how to answer the question, “Reason for leaving” my last job. I quit because a lot of lying was going on. I couldn’t take it anymore and I just left.
Thanks for your help!

Dear Dolores,
You have to deal with this VERY carefully because it can become a can of worms. Your potential new employer has NO way of guessing who’s telling the truth, you or your old boss. So you must not put the new employer in the awkward position of having to believe you, when he doesn’t know you from Adam.

On the application blank, in the space for “Reason left,” write “Prefer to discuss in the interview.” Then PRACTICE beforehand how you will talk about this unhappy experience. Perhaps a career counselor or a savvy friend can help you practice until you are comfortable talking about it and can do so without bad-mouthing anyone. Remember that verbal accusations of past colleagues are disastrous to bring into an interview, regardless of who was the bad guy and who was the innocent victim. They can’t “believe” you because they have no context to do that, so don’t put them on the spot!

In the interview you can say, “It looked to me like there was a lot of lying going on, and this affected my work so I just couldn’t stay in that environment anymore.” The new employer can easily accept the FACT that “it looked to you like there was a lot of lying going on.” In other words, it’s a fact that you have an interpretation of what happened. Therefore, your behavior (quitting) was reasonable, given what you believed was true. But you mustn’t put the new boss in the position of having to agree with your interpretation, or side with you about who was right and who was wrong. So you need to present it as, “The way it looked to me ….”

I hope this helps!

How do I deal with my arrest record?

Hello Yana,
How do I deal with my arrest record? Do I have to put that on the application blank?
Thank you,

Hello Gerry,
Here’s a response to your question from Michael Lesser of New York State.

“Generally it is neither necessary, nor advisable to discuss an ARREST record. Many people are arrested and later have the charges dropped or are acquitted. While it IS necessary to reveal a record of CONVICTIONS for crimes, one is under no obligation to similarly reveal ARRESTS. In fact employers are generally prohibited from even asking about ARRESTS, therefore you should not have to lie about it.”

Thank you, Michael, for this correction. I hope this gives you some guidelines for how to handle it, Gerry.

Do I really HAVE to fill out the application blanks?

Dear Yana,
Do I really HAVE to fill out those miserable application blanks before I get an interview?

Hi Marty,
For some companies, yes, you just HAVE to. But TRY first to just fill in your name, address, and phone number at the top of the application form, and then below add write, “See attached resume for details” or “This info appears on the attached resume.” Then staple the resume to the back of the application (take a pocket-size stapler with you).

But if they INSIST that you fill out the application completely, and you get to tricky questions like “Reason for leaving” or “Salary,” TRY writing (in small letters), “Will discuss at interview.” You MAY get away with it, and if you do, that’s to your advantage.

Should I fill out the application blank in their office?

Dear Yana,
Can I just fill out the application blank right there in their office?
Marty (again)

Hello again Marty,
You can, but here’s another idea. Take TWO blank copies of the application form home with you (the spare one in case you make a mistake). Fill it out AT HOME where you have all the information you’ll need. THEN, stop at a copy center before you return the application, and make a COPY of it for your own records.

You need to make the copy for two reasons:

  • It will save you the bother of assembling ALL that info, all over again, for the NEXT job application. You can simply refer to your photocopy of the last application you wrote, for all your work history details.
  • Just in case you ever apply THERE again, you want to be sure that everything you said on your second application is the same with your first application! (They may compare old and new applications.)

Good luck with your job application!

More Resume Questions and Answers

Want to see how Yana Parker advised job seekers and professional resume writers on other resume problems? Check out our index page for Resume Questions and Answers.

Topics include:

  • Resume Formatting: Where to Put Things on Your Resume
  • How to Write “This and That” on a Resume
  • How to Solve Resume Problems
  • How to Solve Tricky Resume Work History Problems
  • How to Write a Resume for Career Change
  • Filing Out a Job Application Form
  • A Little Job Interviewing Advice