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Application Advice for All:  Use Capitalization, Proofread, and For the Love of All Things Beautiful

Applications are all around us. Grad school applications. Job applications. Internship applications. Volunteer applications. Scholarship applications. Makeup applications? I digress. The point is, there are a lot of opportunities that require applications. My mission today is to help you get yours to the top of the pile—the one that stands out for good (not for comic relief). Too brutal? I don’t mean to be. I just want to help you put your best opportunity-seeking foot forward.

I have a lot to say about this topic having served on application review committees, but I am going to limit myself to a few points now and save some points for a later date. If I try to write too much about a topic on which I am so impassioned I might ignite or spontaneously combust, and we don’t want that to happen. (Or maybe some students who have assignments due for my classes do want that to happen. I hope not.) Anyway, back to the point at hand:

#1. Use capital letters when they are appropriate. People, I am serious. The all lowercase, text message sort of thing is getting completely out of hand. Don't use all lowercase. Also, don't use all uppercase (SHOUTING). Okay, maybe somewhere at some hip tech startup, they don’t care. But, the majority of human resource people or hiring officials do care. And even if they don’t care, they are just looking for a way to whittle down their Everest-like pile of applications, and that is an easy cut to make. Who doesn’t have two seconds to hit the extra button for a capital letter? Are you filling out your application at the red light? If so, don’t! That’s dangerous!

If I am completing a job application, I am Erica Jordan, not erica jor dA n. (Yes, that’s right. Get the spacing right, too.) Now, some applications (some very few) will automatically put everything in all caps for you, presumably because hiring officials got sick of dealing with this issue. If the application does that, you are off the hook.

#2. I beg of you, please proofread. Yes, I know you are a great writer, but humor me anyway. Do it for you. Do it for me. Do it for your mother. Do it for somebody! Misspelled words and poor grammar simply have no place in your application if you are able to catch them. After you proofread, give it to someone else to proofread for you—someone who is detailed-oriented enough to catch errors but not so obsessed that they will try to rewrite everything (in other words, don't give it to someone like me).

On a related note, use complete sentences and a professional tone. Do not write in the way that I am writing on this blog. I am not using a professional tone which is precisely why I am not lobbying to have this blog published on my university’s website. I am using a casual tone because, as nerdy as this sounds, this is one of my hobbies and I feel like writing in a conversational tone when I am in hobby mode. When I am writing for an application, I use complete sentences, avoid slang, and I proofread much more closely.

#3. I had to stop and take a deep breath before beginning this last point. This takes me to a very dark place.

Do not use your smartphone or tablet to complete your any-kind-of application unless you are desperate. I’m serious like a heart attack. I’m crazy like a fox. Or maybe I am not, but the hiring committee will be when they see a bunch of random words that Siri decided to replace for you after you moved on to the next line and didn’t even notice her handiwork. I love Siri with a lot of my heart, but she has no role in my applications. I love my tablet, too. Once, when I was desperate and trapped in an airport without access to a real computer, I had to type a syllabus from my tablet--without an attachable keyboard. Let me tell you, it was a rough process…and then it was a rough product. Just ask my poor students who had to decipher it that semester. (I eventually corrected it.) If you are desperate, fine. If you have a very reliable keyboard attachment for your tablet, okay. But in the world of applications, a regular “Old Faithful” desktop or laptop is still your best bet until we progress a bit more with mobile technology. Today is not that day.

BONUS: Follow the freaking directions in the application. Sorry. That sounded harsh. Just follow them, though. If they ask for your resume in a PDF, don’t upload DocX or Pages file.

Okay, that is all for now. I could say more, but I am sitting on an airplane with my significant other as I draft this, and maybe I should speak a few words to him before this flight ends. Go forth and conquer!


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