Everything You Need To Know About Job Applications

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Table Of Contents

You submitted a resume, but now the company wants you to fill out a job application with almost identical information. While it’s annoying, it’s a step you’ll have to go through if you want the job. Understanding the reason behind job applications may make it easier to stomach. Here’s what you need to know.

If you are ready to tackle your next job application, start your job search on ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter is free for job seekers and is one of the top rated job search sites.

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What Is A Job Application?

Job applications are company-provided forms (whether online or on paper) that you fill out, generally detailing your work history and some additional questions. They are very similar to resumes, with one profound difference: they are not marketing documents. Resumes are your chance to spin and market yourself. Job applications hope to stop the spin and give facts.

Companies may ask you to sign a job application and attest that everything in there is true. For instance, while there is no requirement to include all your positions on a resume, a job application may ask you to list ALL your employers. If you get the job and they later do an audit and find out that you left off your two-week stint at a horrible, toxic company, the new company will point to the job application and say that you lied.

Types Of Job Applications 

Job applications come in two main forms:

Paper Applications

If you walk into a business to apply, they may hand you a photocopied set of papers and ask you to fill this out. While this was the popular way for applications in the previous century, likely, you will never see one of these again.

Applicant Tracking Systems

When you apply online, you often enter information directly into an applicant tracking system. Some take the data directly from your resume and populate the fields. You may have the chance to correct the information. Some have you type the information in directly. You can copy and paste from an electronic copy of your resume, but you have to do the work.

You may see some other forms of applications–some companies have a stand-alone computer in their facilities that they want you to use to fill out applications, for instance. However, in most cases, you’ll be filling out an application online through an applicant tracking system.

Some companies consider job applications an almost afterthought, and you won’t fill one out until you are at the final stages of interviewing. They will use this as a legal record and for background checks.

Related: How Do I Know If My Resume Will Pass The ATS?

 Elements Of A Job Application

Job applications look a lot like resumes, with a few key differences. Here is what you can expect to find on a job application.

Name And Contact Information

This is all necessary information so that the business can contact you. This includes your name, phone number, email address, address. etc. This may include any previous names. This is for the background check.

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Job History

Job applications will often ask not just for your job title and company name but for company addresses, dates of service, and contact information. Some companies may ask you for salary history as well, but keep in mind that salary history questions are illegal in some states.

Job Accomplishments/Tasks

It’s not enough to say, “Senior accountant.” A job application will ask you want you did. This is generally free form, so make sure you answer it with your accomplishments and not just the tasks you did.

Education Information

Did you graduate from high school or college? Some states prohibit asking for dates to help prevent age discrimination.

Demographic Information

It may seem strange, but most job applications ask you about your race and gender. More and more ask about your sexual orientation and gender identity. Don’t worry. These are for reporting purposes only, and the recruiter and hiring manager will not see what you wrote while they are considering you as a candidate. The federal government requires some companies to report on this information, although the questions should always be optional.


While companies won’t generally contact your references until they are close to offering you the job (and in some cases, after the job offer, with the offer contingent on references), the application will ask you to list them upfront.

Any Necessary Releases

If the job requires a credit check, they need you to agree to that upfront. The application will contain a waiver that allows the company to check your credit. Likewise, many ask for a release to conduct a background check on you.

Code Of Conduct, Drug Testing Policy And Other Necessary Information

Companies often state upfront what they expect from their employees.


Job applications often ask for a signature–even an electronic one–stating that the information you gave is accurate. This is why you should be careful that you answer the questions literally. If it says “list all jobs,” you shouldn’t leave out short-term or unrelated jobs that wouldn’t make your resume.

Of course, there could be other things specific to a job. An academic position may ask for a list of publications, and a pharmacist job may ask for your license number. However, the above is on almost all job applications.

Tips For Completing A Job Application

Have your resume in front of you, gather the contact information for your references and be honest! This is a legal document, and lying here can get you rejected or fired later.

For more information, check out our guide on how to follow up on a job application.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I apply for a job?

Today, it's pretty easy as long as you have internet access! Fill out the application online and hit submit! If there is no online application, email your resume to your contact at the company.

What do you say when applying for a job with no experience?

Everyone starts with no experience. Be honest! Include any volunteer work you’ve done and any relevant school work.

How do I write a job application letter?

Generally, in the United States, we have resumes, job applications, and cover letters. A cover letter should cover information you didn’t already list in the resume or application and explain why you would be good at this job.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know all about job applications, you’re ready to apply for jobs. Take a look at ZipRecruiter to get going and find your new career.