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10 Mistakes That Will Get Your Job
Application Thrown Away
By Larry Achara
When hiring managers post jobs, many times they
get many more applications than they care to go
through. They want to find that needle in the
haystack that is the perfect person for the job, but it
can be incredibly tedious to go through a pile of
Hiring managers look for things to weed out people
who are unlikely to be successful in the job. They
also want to get the hiring process over as soon as
possible, especially if the position has been vacant
for a while.
Don’t make your application one of the first ones
discarded. Avoiding these common job application
mistakes will help keep your application out of the
garbage before the hiring manager gets serious
about compiling a list of finalists.
1. Not Following Instructions on the Job Posting or
Like in grade school, the instructions for any
assignment are incredibly important. Most people
have had the experience of a teacher handing out a
quiz with directions at the top saying to write your
name and answer none of the questions.
This trick is designed to teach students the
importance of reading directions before beginning a
Some adults still haven’t learned that lesson. Follow
instructions in the job posting and on the application
form. Failing to do so will get your application thrown
away because it shows the hiring manager that you
lack attention to detail.
2. Leaving Fields Blank on the Application
Human resources professionals and attorneys spend
hours creating and revising application forms.
Leaving fields blank leaves the hiring manager with
less information about you than he or she has about
Much like neglecting the application form’s
directions, leaving fields blank shows a lack of
attention to detail. Tossing incomplete applications is
an easy way for a hiring manager to cut down the
number of applications that must be considered.
3. Turning in the Application Late
There is no legitimate excuse for turning in an
application late. Even if you discover the job posting
until two hours before it closes, you must get the
application turned in on time. Hiring managers have
very little information for basing their decisions. If
the only thing you have ever turned into this person
is late, that doesn’t bode well.
If a hiring manager already has a sizable applicant
pool by the closing date, the hiring manager may
discard all applications turned in past the deadline.
Hiring managers cannot toss out one late application
simply for lateness without doing the same to all late
applications. As long as they do this with all late
applications, they are justified in doing so.
4. Spelling and Grammatical Errors
Spelling and grammatical errors look unprofessional
on job applications. If you know you’re a bad speller
or self-editor, get someone to proofread your
application or at the very least run it through the
spell check feature of a word processing program.
One or two errors probably won’t get your
application tossed in the garbage, but several of
Make sure you know the commonly misspelled words
on government job applications. A job application is
too important a document not to make sure it is
5. Not Explaining Gaps in Employment
in employment are not always a bad thing, but they
do raise a red flag for hiring managers. If left
unexplained, hiring managers will assume the worst.
When you have a gap in employment, be sure to
explain what happened. Don’t let a hiring manager
assume you were fired for cause when you really
left to take care of a sick parent or newborn child.
If you left on bad terms, say so. It is better that a
potential employer find out this information from you
up front than later in a reference check with a
previous supervisor. You may have only a small box
on the application to enter your explanation, so be
careful how you write your reason. If the space is
available and it is appropriate for the situation,
explain what you learned from that experience.
6. Not Including All Required Attachments
When a job posting requires more than a completed
application form, the organization is telling you that
they will use these additional materials to make the
hiring decision. If you omit these materials, the
hiring manager is missing information to compare
you with other applicants. Therefore, the hiring
manager will throw out applications that do not
include all the required attachments.
7. Failing to Tailor Application Materials to Each Job
When you apply for a job, you want to show the
hiring manager that you are the right fit for the job.
The best way to do this is to tailor your qualifications
to the knowledge, skills and abilities listed in the job
posting. Whether accurate or inaccurate, failing to do
this shows the hiring manager that you do not care
enough about getting the job to spend the time to
thoughtfully consider what the job entails and how to
show that you can do it.
Experienced managers can spot a person’s base
cover letter. If you don’t take the time to write a new
cover letter or at least edit your default one, why
should a hiring manager take the time to read what
you send in for every other job?
8. Applying to a Job You Are Obviously Overqualified For
Hiring managers want new hires that are a good fit
for the position and will stay for a reasonable
amount of time. Someone with a doctoral degree
and 20 years of experience in academic research
who applies for an administrative technician position
can obviously perform the tasks required for the job;
however, this person is almost certainly a bad hire.
Such an individual is overqualified for the position.
This person would find the position boring and would
begin looking for work soon after coming onboard.
Applying for a position far beneath your credentials
looks suspicious. Hiring managers wonder what went
wrong in previous jobs that cause you to seek for a
job that appears beneath your abilities.
9. Applying to a Job You Are Obviously Unqualified For
Do not apply to be an astronaut if the last math class
you took was Algebra II. Applying for a job you are
obviously unqualified for wastes your time and the
employer’s time. If you do this consistently, you will
develop a reputation for taking wild shots in the dark
with your job applications, so when people see you
apply for a job you’re qualified for, they’ll be less
likely to take you seriously.
10. Leaving the Reader Confused
When hiring managers look at application materials,
they want a clear and concise picture of what each
candidate will bring to the job. Using too many big
words will bore readers and make them want to stop
half-way. Be as brief as possible while giving a
thorough explanation of your work history and why
you would be good for the job.
Make sure that your ending and beginning dates for
each job are accurate. A typographical error on a
year will confuse readers. It could look like you have
an unexplained gap in employment or that you held
two jobs at the same time when you really did not.
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