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Monday, November 7, 2011

Filling Out The Application

This blog has, although intended for general restaurant industry advice, taken a turn more specifically about finding a job, filling out the application, handling the interview, and general advice of that nature. I don't mind writing about either subject. In fact I pride myself on having the skills necessary to get a job - especially in this job market.

I wanted to take the time to methodically go through the process of filling out an application and giving possible (valid/good) responses to each line item as well as their importance. It is important to remember that an application is a legal document, so, I must tell you that I am not a professional career advisor nor do I claim that the information within this blog has been written by a legal authority so take it for what it is - good common sense with a bit of experience mixed in.

Date: Write the date in Month, Day, Year format. 11/7/11 being today. This is generally understood and accepted in the United States (it may vary in other countries). The date is important, because when a manager goes to file it they will slide it into a filing cabinet, and if they have less than perfect record keeping and organizational skills it may get jumbled up, then without the date on it the manager will never know if the application was filled out a day ago or six months ago. The date will also make it easier for the organized manager to find your application when you check on it's status.

Name: Obviously, you write your proper legal name. Even if everyone calls you Bill, still write William. Also, there may be a line for other names you might be known as such as Billy or a nickname like Sonny. You may be required to list your maiden name as a married woman. This information will be important if hired.

Address: This line is going to be used for your personal information. If the company needs to send you anything, a paycheck possibly, this is where they will send it. Write where ever you want your check to be sent. BE WARNED that your address may bring up red flags if your home address is in either a different state or far from the company location. If you are applying for a job in New York and you list your address as New Mexico they may be less likely to offer you a job. However, you should never lie on any portion of your application, it may haunt you later.

Telephone Number: This is the primary way your possible employer will get in contact with you. It seems like common sense to tell you to make sure the number is valid, listed with the area code, you can afford to answer the phone (have minutes on it or ensure you can accept incoming calls), it is yours or somewhere you can have a message taken (not a public/work phone), and alert anyone that may be taking messages for you to answer calls professionally.
Likewise, make sure your voice mail is also professional. Do not have a perspective employer listen to you say, "Hey! I'm probably drunk or hung over so leave a message when it beeps. Deuces." It will not look good toward your character.

SSN: Make sure it's yours and legitimate. The pattern, if you don't know is three digits, two digits, then four digits, separated by dashes, i.e. 123-45-6789. This will be used to verify your right to work.
There may be other questions about if you are a legal citizen, check the appropriate boxes.

Age: An employer cannot ask how old you are, but they can ask if you are above a certain age to determine if you are legally allowed to perform some of the functions the job entails. Usually these questions will be in the form of "Are you at least 16 years old? Are you at least 18 years old?" Check these boxes accordingly. If you check the 'Yes, I am over 18 years old box' then make sure you do NOT check the 'No, I am not 16 years old' box. I've seen it done.

Position Desired: Check any and all that apply. It would not hurt to check some jobs that you wouldn't be thrilled to have and some jobs that you may not be qualified for. I mean this, if you are applying to be a bartender, it would be wise to inform them you wouldn't mind being a dishwasher and you would also like to be a shift manager. BE WARNED! You may be offered the dish washing position and if you need the job it will get your foot in the door, but if you don't NEED the job, you can always decline the offer.

Hours Desired/Required: These questions will come in a variety of styles:
  • When can you work?
  • When can't you work?
  • Are you available nights?
  • Are you available weekends?
  • Can you stay later than your scheduled shift?
  • Are you seeking: Full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal employment?
  • When can you start?
Obviously, I cannot answer these questions for you. You know what is going on in your life, and you know when you can or cannot work. Some helpful hints include to not divulge any planned appointments, trips, or possible reasons why you may have to miss a day until after you are hired. It can look poorly on you if you decide to hide information about a month you'll be needing off for a family vacation just a few weeks down the road.

Felonies:

Who do you know: These questions are along the lines of "How did you hear about the opening" or "Do you have any friends/family that work here" Before you list any one's name, make sure it is okay with them. Do not list some one's name without consulting that individual. The reasons are a few fold:
  1. That person may not be willing to stick their name/reputation out for you.
  2. That person may not have good report with their manager.
  3. That person may not like their job.
  4. You might be 'guilty-by-association' if the management team doesn't like that person.
  5. Management team might assume you will be too chatty if you are believed to be best friends.
Be careful with this one, it can come back to haunt you.

Salary Desired/Required: Some employers ask how much you 'require' and salary negotiations are a topic for a whole different post. In most cases minimum wage is the expected, especially in the restaurant world, but you should write 'neogotable.'

Previous Experience: There is a couple parts on this subject the "Have you ever applied here before?" with the "Have you ever worked here before?" and the other side, "List former employers" section. Answer the first two honestly. In some cases it will help - it will show that you not only have relevant work experience, but you have relevant work experience HERE or it may be bad in a situation where a new manager/management team is brought in and they have been informed to clean house and not rehire any of the former staff (for whatever reason).

The second part of the application where you fill out the previous employer information is important, and if your manager is worth a grain of salt should check references with these employers. So, while you may be a little fuzzy on your employment dates, there is a good chance your former employer may be too.

Go back at least three employers, some may require four, others want employers based on a number of years. Just fill in the blanks they give you, and if they request more experience fill out another page of employers.

Have the phone numbers and addresses of these employers written down. If a manager goes to check your references and they cannot figure out which location you worked at they may assume you lied on your application - which is a not-so-fancy way of saying you're not getting a job.

Many of us in the restaurant world aren't given an official title - so you may be creative, but don't take too much latitude. If you were a cook and you list your title as Executive Kitchen Chef they might not find it as humorous as you do. As a cook you could write "Line Cook" or "Intermediate Line Cook" or be specific like "Grill Cook" or "Saute Cook." Remember if you are just applying to be a bus boy and you write that at a previous restaurant you were the "Sanitation Captain" they may feel you are over qualified, even if it is simply an exaggeration of your title.

List salary information as accurately as you can remember. This could be a whole post by itself.

List your supervisor's name as accurately as you can remember. Also, with this situation if you didn't/don't get along with the Restaurant General Manager, you might want to list the Assistant
Manager or if your immediate supervisor can speak towards your skills better than a company boss can then it may be better to list someone like a shift manager.
In this same category, it can be difficult for many employers to hire you if your former work is of a higher caliber than your current position seeking - try to have an explanation for this. If you were an assistant manager and now you are applying for a hostess position it may way a red flag, but if you explain that you are going back to school and as a result can only work a few hours a week they will probably understand the situation.

Many managers don't check references, so it is a good idea to always allow a perspective employer to contact your current or former employers, even if your work was less than stellar. If you did something just ridiculous like stole something or assaulted someone... Don't check 'yes'

There are a thousand different ways to say nearly everything. So, avoid damaging your reputation when filling out the section on reason for leaving. If you were laid-off, explain there was a lack of work. If you were fired for a disagreement write something like 'Tense workplace environment.' Most of these situations would need to be addressed on a case by case basis - there is no blanket statement. If you are currently employed simply write that "Currently employed."

Some applications will ask what skills you possess or your interests. The interests portion may be used as a spur during an interview, but the skills are important and should be relevant. It doesn't matter if you are a cattle rancher if you want to flip burgers. Include any certificates/licenses you possess as well as years of experience total you may have.

Education: List your high school's name and location and under course work or field of study write "General" and under degree write "High School Diploma" if you graduated. Pretty simple. List any college or vocational school course work as well - this may not have to be relevant, but it shows a certain level of responsibility and education.

References: Some applications list personal references. Just put any three people that will speak of you like you are a saint, this is what the manager should be expecting. One of the least important parts of the application in my opinion. Be sure to tell these people that someone may be calling about a job reference.

Legal Stuff: Read this, make sure the application is as accurate as you can possibly make it, don't lie, if you do lie you may have problems later. Sign and date.

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