Follow Application Instructions on Job Postings

hand pen job application
Rob Friedman / Getty Images

Elementary school is full of life lessons. Keep your hands to yourself. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. In fact, if people remembered and applied the principles they learned in kindergarten, the world would be a better place.

We’ve all had the experience or heard stories about an elementary school teacher handing out a quiz meant to bring home the point to read the directions before beginning an assignment.

It goes something like the following.

The teacher tells the students they will have a specified period of time to complete a quiz. She hands it out to the class but has them keep it face down. This adds to the tension and anticipation. When she tells the class to turn over their papers, students begin frantically answering questions. They have done this dozens, perhaps hundreds of times over the course of their young educational careers. Flip over the sheet, and get after it.

As students continue their race against the clock, one or two students finish in what appears to be an unrealistic time. The other students are confused, but they keep at their work. They can’t be distracted by what others are doing. When the teacher calls for pencils down, few student have answered all the questions.

The teacher can barely hide her wry smile. She asks if any of the students read the directions. The early finishers share her facial expression.

The other students’ eyes shift to the tops of their papers. The directions say to put their names at the top and to answer none of the questions.

The lesson is to always read directions first. The moments it takes to do so may save you wasted time and effort.

The same holds true for adults completing job applications.

Not only will reading the instructions on a job posting save you time, failing to do so can all but guarantee you will not earn an interview. Such a mistake will get your job application thrown away.

Think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective. The job application and other associated materials applicants submit represent the first impressions each applicant makes. In essence, applicants have unlimited time to tinker, tweak and perfect their applications, so if an applicant fails to follow directions, why would a hiring manager want to interview that person? Regardless of the job, managers need people who can understand and follow written directions. This is such a basic issue that no matter what other qualities an applicant might have, a manager cannot accept the task of correcting it in a new hire. Odd are there are plenty of people who apply for a given job who do what is asked of them in the job posting.

Before you begin filling out a job application, review the posting specifically looking for instructions the hiring manager or human resources department gives on how to apply and what to include with an application submission. Follow the instructions as best you can. If something is unclear, contact the organization’s human resources department to seek clarification.

There is a chance other potential applicants have the same question you do, but by some chance if your question isn’t a good one, it is better to ask HR than the hiring manager.

Once you have finished your application and other materials, review the job posting’s instructions again. Make sure you have followed the instructions completely. If you haven’t, fix what you need to fix and then review the instructions one more to be certain you have followed them. Submit your application only after you are sure you have followed the job posting’s instructions.