I can't believe I'm using up a question on this
September 24, 2014 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Is it okay to turn in a hand-written professional job application, when the job application provided is a non-fillable PDF form?

I'm applying to a job, and as part of that have to fill out and turn in a PDF job application. The PDF form is not fillable. I've tried using an online PDF to Word converter so that i can fill it out in Word, then print, scan and send, but the Word document that results is so hopelessly tangled with tables that I'm not sure I'm willing to spend the time wrestling with it.

FWIW, the application itself states that you can "type or print" the information in. I sure as hell am not going to hunt down a typewriter to do it that way.

And if it matters, this is for a professional position requiring a college degree.

Is there another solution? Am I overthinking this?

posted by whistle pig to Work & Money (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Unless it's a test to see how well you can deal with a shitty PDF from a clueless HR department, just fill it out by hand. It's dumb, but I've applied to top-50 architecture firms that do this.
posted by notsnot at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Use a graphics program like inkscape, etc., etc. to type in the text? Either one that reads pdf or convert the pdf to an image. You may want to type in a layer on top of the imported image.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If we're using the same version of PDF, there should be a text box option you can use-- sort of like drawing a text box in Paint.

If that's not an option, I should think neat block capitals should be fine.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The other solution would be to use Adobe (or Preview, if you're a Mac) to create text boxes over the spaces where information needs to go.

If you don't want to do that, I think it's fine to write it neatly in black ink, unless you have the world's worst handwriting.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can use PDF editors to add text boxes to a PDF even if the file wasn't set up as a form.

I would not, personally, submit a handwritten form. At the very least, submitting a typed form distinguishes you from the nincompoops who write their application by hand.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:52 PM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

If this is a professional position, the application is probably just for their files and will barely be glanced at because they'll be focusing on your resumé. So handwrite, just make sure you do it very clearly.
posted by greta simone at 7:52 PM on September 24, 2014

Well, personally I'd type it.

Acrobat can fill it in, so if you know or have access to a computer that has Adobe CS on it that's the easiest route. Your local university will have at least one lab that has it installed.

Another option is to print to PDF or print to jpg or print and scan it back in, and then overlay text boxes on top (doable in Word but a bit of a mess margin-wise so easier to do in Photoshop/Illustrator or probably Gimp (free open-sourced alternative to Photoshop).
posted by vegartanipla at 7:52 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this might be your solution.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:53 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've done this for every job I've had. Fortune 500, Fortune 50, startups, nonprofits. Every place has the same broken-ass hr policies, and I've just put in handwritten applications. Never been a problem. Make sure they can read it is all.
posted by Pacrand at 7:55 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nitro PDF - Windows app. Will let you type letters onto PDF & print (have at print doc & annotations Fromm print dialog box) finished app.

Type text, double click to drag & line up as needed.

Huh - I have a free version. Not sure what's going on there.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try again to type directly in the PDF. But otherwise, of course you can fill it out be hand. The job I have now and my previous job were both jobs where I handwrote a printed, multi-page PDF application.
posted by John Cohen at 8:07 PM on September 24, 2014

I have great luck using either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to open the PDF (page by page, unfortunately) and just putting text in the boxes that way. It takes awhile but is totally worth it for me since my handwriting is completely illegible.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:24 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've pulled PDFs into a word processor as a watermark image and then set the opacity to 100%. Then just type in the right spot, no need to create text boxes.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:33 PM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

There are good solutions here, but I think it is fine to handwrite it.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:35 PM on September 24, 2014

Response by poster: It's Photoshop to the rescue (I just so happen to have a free 30 day trial right now). Thanks, everyone!
posted by whistle pig at 8:43 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've got very satisfying results with PDFEscape.com, where you can fill in PDFs online, a lot of times even if there are no form-fields within the PDF itself.
posted by KMB at 12:42 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

FWIW, are you sure they don't mean block capitals when they say "Print"? I don't know if this a is a UK thing but here if a form says print it means to hand write in block capitals.
posted by missmagenta at 1:57 AM on September 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maybe the PDF is locked? As in, they forgot to allow forms to be filled out by those with just Adobe Reader.

There are PDF "crackers" out there.
posted by kuanes at 4:48 AM on September 25, 2014

Just as an anecdotal response, my organization had a nonfillable pdf form as part of the application process up until maybe a year or so ago, for every position and for both internal and external applicants. I never saw anyone do anything other than just handwrite it. The new form is fillable but the result is actually worse because there isn't enough space to type everything so it ends up kind of a mess. As long as your handwriting is legible it will be fine.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:11 AM on September 25, 2014

Yeah, I wouldn't let an inept HR department make me look bad. Good luck.
posted by aught at 5:37 AM on September 25, 2014

LibreOffice opens PDFs as editable documents.
posted by dweingart at 6:22 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

FWIW, are you sure they don't mean block capitals when they say "Print"?

Actually yes I think that is exactly what they mean. These instructions are from ye olden days. Basically they want you to fill it out legibly.
posted by radioamy at 7:07 AM on September 25, 2014

HR Person Here - We really don't care if you type or hand write the job application. Just make sure it is legible.

Most of the time no one looks at it unless there is an issue an it needs to be looked at. No one will look down on you for hand writing it. Just fill the dang thing out so we can check off that you did it.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:35 AM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sorry, Foxit reader.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:22 AM on September 25, 2014

No one will look down on you for hand writing it.

I'm sorry, I just don't think that's correct. Maybe no one in HR who's arranging interviews and passing along credentials to department heads and interview committees will care, but the peer and managerial interviewers who are interested in the candidates' relative levels of professionalism will only see that candidate A hand-wrote his or her answers, while candidate B filled it in digitally -- and will likely feel more favorably-inclined toward B.
posted by aught at 11:57 AM on September 25, 2014

Seconding Foxit reader to type directly on to the PDF.
posted by dhens at 1:23 PM on September 25, 2014

Print just means hand-write with block letters, not in cursive. Some people's cursive handwriting is impossible to read, whereas printing is more legible.
posted by lizbunny at 4:42 PM on September 25, 2014

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