Application Form

Application FormApplication forms can either be completed in writing or online depending on the preference of yourself or the employer. Whichever method is used, most application packs will include a job description, person specification and guidance notes to assist with the completion of the form. It is absolutely essential that you read this information carefully to ensure that you understand any specific requirements for the role and any instructions such as word count and application deadlines. Make sure that you are able to provide enough evidence to support the essential criteria of the person specification otherwise it may not be worthwhile completing the application.

Employers use application forms to assess your motivation and skills (and your spelling, grammar and punctuation). Questions are designed to assess specific attributes, so applicants can be compared systematically.

The questions on application forms can broadly be divided into two main types - those that ask for straightforward factual information (name, qualifications, etc) and those that seek to analyse whether you have the qualities employers are looking for.

The questions you are asked on the application form may be similar to the questions you will face at interview, and the preparation for both applications and interviews should be the same.


Most application forms ask you to list all your qualifications and your current education. If there is little space you may be able to:

• summarise key results or module titles;
• add a separate sheet;
• insert details into the additional information box.

If in doubt, contact the employer to confirm the best strategy.

Most application forms will ask for your education details which can include grades and specific modules undertaken. Overseas applicants need not try to convert their qualifications into a national format as many employers now use a qualification conversion table. This section of the form is usually self-explanatory and should be completed honestly as education information is easy to verify.

Employment/work experience

The section requesting information on work experience usually requires completion in reverse chronological order and will want you to provide job descriptions for all or some of the jobs you have undertaken. There may be a word restriction for this section or limited available space and, as with all other sections of the form, these guidelines must be adhered to. Some forms specifically request information on part-time and voluntary work so it is important to include anything relevant.

Although the wording may vary depending on the employer, most application forms will set specific questions asking you to elaborate further on why you are applying for the role and to the company in particular and what skills and experiences you have that match the person specification. This may take the form of a series of competency questions or a personal statement but, either way, this is probably the most important part of the application form and must be completed carefully.

Describe the responsibilities and achievements in your previous roles that relate to the skills required in the job you are going for. You can group together or prioritise some experiences if space is limited.

If set questions are used, it is important to make sure that the information you give actually answers the question and that evidence is provided as proof of your experience in each particular area. Both set questions and personal statements usually have word restrictions and, once again, it is essential that you comply with this as extra words may simply be ignored.

Before you start, have a good look at the person specification and highlight the essential criteria the employer is looking for. You can then start to prepare a list of any specific events and achievements from your personal, professional or academic background that will support your application as well as making a note of the skills or qualities you developed as a result. Once you have this information, you can start to structure your response in such a way that is clear, concise and directly related to the original question and the person specification.

Interests and achievements

Relate your extracurricular activities to the skills required. It is more important to demonstrate relevant skills than list amazing achievements.

Competency-based questions

Employers will use competency-based questions to find out whether:

▪ You have the personal qualities and skills required.
▪ You understand yourself and are able to look at yourself critically.
▪ You are able to identify where you and the job or organisation are a good match.

Employers ask these questions for a reason – try to work out what it is in each case. Go back to the list of the competencies they are looking for and read the questions with these in mind.

Follow these eight steps to writing a successful application to secure that dream job

1) Read the information pack

An application pack will usually consist of more than just the application form. The original advert, job description, person specification and some background information on the company in question are sometimes included. This is to help you learn more about the job and guide you in completing the application form correctly. Read all the enclosures carefully and make sure you understand what is required.

2) Do your research

Research the company you're applying to and the industry, sector and particular role or function you are applying for. Check the company's website and read around the career area so that you can use jargon words. Do a draft. Never write straight on the application form. And remember - this is a chance for you to promote your relevant qualities so clearly state what you have to offer and why you should be considered.

3) Answer all the questions

But do not volunteer information that is not asked for. People tend to say things that can then be used as evidence against them. Remember, employers are checking your education, skills and work experience. Do not add any extra information. It may not be any good. Where a particular question is not relevant to your background or experience, write 'not applicable' in the space provided otherwise it will look like you have either forgotten or did not bother to answer it.

4) Use the right keywords

There are clues in the advert, job description and person specification as to what the employer wants. If they ask for someone who's a dynamic team leader or works on their own initiative, give appropriate examples of when you last did those things using the given keywords.

5) Take time to consider the personal statement

Application forms are by their nature uniform documents but the personal statement is there for you to set yourself apart from the crowd and sell yourself. Address each point in the person specification faithfully but stay focused. Don't write a novel. The function of writing a personal statement is just to get you through the door. You are most likely to succeed in this by offering more evidence that you have the skills and qualities the employer is looking for. The worst thing to do is to write a personal statement that anybody could write. Bring the dry factual sections of your application form to life by elaborating on key relevant points. Inject a hint of personality into your personal statement. Do not give standard responses or rehash old forms. Try and approach it afresh and think laterally.

6) Choose appropriate referees

This will nearly always be your current employer or a lecturer from university if you have just graduated. Always ask before using someone as a referee. That way, they won't be taken off guard when they're approached by the company and will be more inclined to give a considered and comprehensive appraisal of you and your work.

7) Treat online forms as hard copy forms

However, be aware that in an electronic format an optic eye scans for keywords. This means it's even more important to make sure that you're mentioning words out of the advert or job spec because that's what's going to get you to the top of the pile.

8) Do a final check

Ensure that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Keep it concise and avoid repetition. Use a range of examples to illustrate your experience. When you've written your 'dummy' application read it back and ask yourself, "If this landed on my desk and I was a recruiter would I want to see this person?" If the answer is 'no', do it again. Keep going until you think someone would want to see you on the basis of this application form.

Tackling tricky questions

There are no right and wrong answers, but there are certainly good and poor answers. Try to identify what the recruiter is hoping to find out:

▪ Do not give generalised answers. Give specific examples and evidence.
▪ Answer the question that the recruiter has asked, not the question you would like.
▪ Keep checking what they have asked
▪ Vary your use of examples and draw them from different areas of your life.
▪ Use your most recent experiences and achievements where possible.
▪ Keep within any word limit given.

Examples of application form question include:

Identify the qualities you possess which make you suitable for a career in...

You must reassure the selector that you have given your choice of career careful thought and made a match between you and the job by giving specific examples of evidence.

Give details of your main extracurricular interests. What have you contributed and what have you got out of them?

Here you can give evidence of how you have used opportunities to develop relevant skills. Avoid just listing your interests, but provide evidence of your competence in areas such as teamwork, time management and so on and make sure you emphasise particular achievements.

Tell us about a time when you were a member of an effective team. What was your role? What did you achieve?

Teamwork is one of the key skills that most employers look for, so you will get a lot of practice answering this one! Tell the employer how you contributed to the team and if you helped others to contribute. Remember to use 'I' more often than 'we'.

Give an example of when you set yourself a demanding goal and overcame obstacles to achieve it.

Concentrate on the process rather than a long description. Describe the goal, then analyse the steps you took to reach it. If you can give a specific measure of your success then do (for example increasing the membership of a society, raising money for charity). Provide evidence for skills you have developed as a result. Do not just assert that you developed your skills, and make sure you emphasise your own individual contribution.

Include references (if applicable)

One of your referees should be work-related, e.g. a manager at work, and one should be an academic at university - most people use their personal tutor. Follow these tips:

• share your career aspirations and achievements with your referees;
• always get permission;
• provide their full name and title, postal address, email address and phone number;
• keep them informed about the jobs you are going for.


• Print the form (if possible) and check your work before sending it out.
• Ask someone to read through it as you might not be able to see your own mistakes.
• Keep a copy of your application form along with the job advert/job description to prepare for your interview.
• Carefully check your spelling and grammar as poor English is the main reason why most applications are rejected.
• Use short sentences/paragraphs which are easy to follow.
• Use one idea per paragraph and state the key information in the first sentence.
• Be concise.
• Avoid jargon.
• Use active verbs.
• Do not repeat yourself.


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