How To Apply for a Job in Person (and When It Can Help You)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 10, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In-person applications are the norm for some retail and food service jobs, but they can involve more preparation than submitting an online application. They may get back to you sooner, though, and offer you a chance to meet coworkers and see the workplace. Understanding the best way to prepare can help you anticipate elements of the in-person application, from questions about work history to impromptu interviews. In this article, we discuss when you might want to apply for a job in person and helpful steps for the in-person application process.

When is it best to apply in person?

It's best to apply in person when that's the business's preference or the accepted industry norm, as it is in many retail and service businesses. Applying in person can also be more efficient if you're looking for a job you can start right away. You might apply in person if you're looking for a quick response on your application since many in-person interview processes give you a result right after the conversation.

It's important to do some research on the business where you're applying to make sure you follow their instructions. When you have all the correct documents, you can show the hiring manager your attention to detail and ability to follow directions. This presents you as a stronger candidate.

Related: How To Write a Job Application Email (With Templates and Tips)

How to apply for a job in person

Here are the steps you can take when applying for a job in person:

1. Do some research

First, learn about the opportunities in your area. You might find listings about open positions through social media, online job listing sites or local newspaper sites. Take some time to read through the job descriptions to make sure you understand the position, then learn about the company as well. This information can help you ask good questions if the in-person application also involves an interview. It can also help you decide which positions you might prefer if you have the opportunity to choose between more than one.

If you're looking for a job in a certain area, like one within walking distance of your home, you might try walking around and looking for "now hiring" signs in local shops. Consider bringing a resume and list of references with you if you decide to apply on the same day you look for jobs.

Related: Guide: How To Get a Job Quickly

2. Check for sample applications

After you've selected some jobs you might apply for, learn about their job application process from the listing or their website. If they have a sample application, consider filling it out to print and bring it with you so that you can copy your answers and complete the process more quickly when you get there. You can also look for additional information on the application process. Some larger retail stores that offer in-person applications have computers or kiosks, while others may have paper applications. Knowing what the process involves in advance can help you prepare all the paperwork you might need.

3. Gather documents

Next, collect any documents you may need. Even though jobs may ask only for their own application, the following documents can make filling out an application a lot easier:

  • Resume: Some jobs may request your resume in addition to your application, so it's useful to have a few copies with you when you apply. You can also use your resume to make sure you remember all your relevant skills and education history, including dates you attended schools and your GPA.

  • Work history: Applications may ask for your work history, so bringing this as a separate document can help you fill in quickly where you worked, how many years you worked there, and why you left. Other work history questions on applications might include how much you made, your job title, your supervisor and their phone number, and the address of the business.

  • References: Many jobs ask for personal or professional references, so bringing a list of three professional references and three personal references can be useful. Some applications may ask for phone numbers, while others may ask for an email or physical mail address, the number of years they've known you, and your relationship.

  • Schedule: Jobs may ask when you're available to work, when you can start, or which shifts you would prefer. Having your available or unavailable hours written down can ensure that you give consistent responses to different jobs and remember all your previous commitments.

Related: How to Get References on a Resume (With Detailed Steps)

4. Dress professionally

Professional attire is appropriate for filling out a job application in person, since you may interact with hiring managers, and employees, or even have an interview. Dress in clean clothing, and avoid distracting garments or accessories. Consider the workplace and the application process when getting ready. If you're applying in a service or industrial setting, think about whether closed-toed shoes and long pants might be necessary.

Related: What To Wear to an Interview

5. Give yourself time

Leave enough time to fill out the job application during the business's operational hours and avoid planning any other activities right after in case your application or interview takes longer than you expect. You may have to type up significant personal information into a kiosk or computer, handwrite a long application, or sit down with a manager for an informal interview.

Giving yourself plenty of time can also help you stay calm and assured during your interactions, and make a good impression on the company. Factor in any transportation time you may need for driving, parking, or walking.

6. Prepare for an interview

Depending on where you apply, what time of day you go and who is working, you may have a brief interview after handing in your application. This might involve standard job interview questions, or it could be a quick conversation so that the manager can meet you and ask questions that the application didn't include. To prepare for this, you can practice your answers to common interview questions. Consider why you want to work at each place and even try a mock interview with a friend or family member.

Related: How To Ace Your Next Job Interview

7. Keep in contact

As you leave, make sure you have the contact information for the business and the names of any managers or employees you spoke with. If you had an interview or conversation, you might send an email thanking the interviewer for their time. After a few days, you can call or email to follow up about the interview and see if they have progressed in their hiring process. Be sure to know your availability, start date and any additional questions before you call so that you're ready if they offer you a position.

Related: Sending An After Interview Follow Up Email

Tips for in-person applications

Here are some tips to remember while applying in person:

  • Write neatly: If you are filling in an application by hand, make sure that your handwriting is neat and legible. If you make a mistake, cross it out neatly and continue writing.

  • Understand the industry: Talk to some people who work at the company or in the industry where you're working so that you know what managers might want. For instance, if you're applying for a restaurant, and you know they have trouble filling evening shifts, you might mention to the manager that you're available then.

  • Dress in business casual rather than formal attire: For in-person interviews, it's best to wear professional, clean pants, or a skirt with a professional top. While a full suit or dress may be appropriate for an office interview, business casual clothing is appropriate for in-person applications.

  • Remember names: As you ask for an application and meet other employees and managers, try to remember all information you can about the workplace. If you get the job, this knowledge can help you on your first day.

  • Consider bringing extra materials: Bring other documents if you're applying to work in a specialized environment. For example, if you're applying for work as a sign painter or tattoo artist, you might bring a portfolio of your completed artwork.

  • Be brief: Remember that the staff likely have other work to do, so avoid taking up extra time unnecessarily. If you reach out after the interview, keep your note or call brief, and only follow up once or twice.

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