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UPDATED
11:46am 29 Nov 2023

How to complete a job application form effectively

Why do I have to fill in an application form?

Although some employers may still request a CV and covering letter, it is increasingly common for candidates to be asked to complete an application form when applying for jobs. Employers like application forms because it makes it easier for them to compare the strengths and weaknesses of all the candidates. Many people are daunted by the prospect of completing an application but usually it is usually fairly straightforward and just requires a little time and effort to ensure you match yourself to the set criteria.

Tips for completing Application Forms

  • Before you start writing, ensure you read through any instructions, the job description and person specification. It may help to print these out and make notes as you go through them.
  • If you are completing an online application ensure you write down your log in details and password so you can continue to access and update your application form until you have completed it and are ready to submit it.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Good application forms require a lot of concentration and may take several hours to complete. Ensure you find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Research the company thoroughly. Employers will want to see evidence that you have a good understanding of the role and why you want to work for their company.
  • Ensure that you complete all the required sections. For example, writing ‘see attached CV’ (unless one has been requested) will not suffice
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Making simple mistakes could mean you are not shortlisted for an interview. Don’t rely on spellcheck - ask your family, friends or a careers professional to review your application.
  • Print a copy of your application for future reference. If you are selected for interview, you may be asked questions about statements you have made on your application, so ensure you keep a copy to hand.

Application Form Content

Education and qualifications

  • List your qualifications in reverse chronological order (most recent first), but do check that this is what they want!

Employment experience

  • List jobs, placements and voluntary work in reverse chronological order.
  • Add you job title and if you didn’t have an official one, then use a title which best describes your job.
  • Ensure that you sell the transferable skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for in the description of duties section
  • Make sure the language you use is strong and decisive.

References

Ask permission form your referees and provide up to date contact information for them. Typically an email address or contact number be required. 

Competency-based questions and scenarios

Some application forms require you to provide evidence by providing specific examples by asking competency-based questions such as “describe a time when you had to work as part of a team” or “think of a time when you have had to influence others to do something they were reluctant to do”.

A good approach to responding to these types of questions is to use the STAR technique.

  • Situation - Explain the situation that you were in. This should be a short description, it could be: ‘during my degree’ or ‘whilst working at…’
  • Task - You need to briefly explain what it is that you had to do. If you were working as a group explain what the overall task of the group was but be clear about your own role.
  • Action - This is the most substantial part (around 50-70%) of any example and you need to include: What you did, why you did it, how you did it, what skills you used
  • Result - Be prepared to explain: What happened as a result of the actions you took and what impact the result had overall on the task?

The aim of these questions is to help you prove that you have the skills and experience to deal with scenarios that relate to the role. Don’t worry if you do not have direct experience of these situations in the workplace; remember that skills are transferable so it is acceptable to use an example from your studies, projects you have completed, voluntary or part-time work.

Supporting Information 

Most application forms will contain a section asking you to write in detail about your suitability for the role. This can be called “Supporting or Additional Information” or a “Personal Statement”.  In this section, you will be expected to outline your reasons for applying, provide evidence of any relevant experience that you have and highlight the skills and attributes you possess. These sections are where you really sell yourself and demonstrate why you are suitable for the job, so it is important to spend some time getting it right by:

  • Checking any guidance notes in the application pack before you start on this section
  • Providing evidence of your skills and experience for all the points listed in the person specification and ensure you provide evidence of how you meet all of the “essential” and most “desirable criteria
  • Following the same structure as the person specification by using the same sub headings (this makes it easier for the recruiter who is likely to be checking your answers against the person specification)
  • Use the STAR technique to help you provide structure to your answer each criteria of you are demonstrating.

Further Resources

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