A short guide to application form success
Why are they used?
Application forms may seem like a lot of effort. But this is a main reason why they’re used by employers. It’s easy to quick-fire a CV out with a generic covering letter, but application forms take more dedication and will filter out any candidates who aren’t truly interested in the role. They also give employers an identical form of assessment between candidates and are a great first test of spelling, grammar and punctuation competencies. We’ve outlined below some of the key features of application forms, and how best to tackle them.
Read the instructions
Firstly and most importantly, don’t jump straight into filling out the application form. Take time to go through the document, finding out exactly what it is they’re asking from you in each section. Read all the questions in full – they may provide important guidelines that you need to follow e.g. word limits or the need to use capital letters for specific sections. There may also be parts of the question which give you a crucial hint as to what they’re looking for in a response.
Education and past experience
Unlike the freedom you have with CV’s, you’re likely to be restricted for space when listing educational qualifications and past employment experience. Stick to concise bullet points of the main results from your education and the key responsibilities you’ve held in previous roles. Looking over the job description and candidate requirements should give you a better idea of what aspects are most important to put here. If asked your reason for leaving, stick to short and simple responses such as ‘end of contract’ or ‘career progression’.
Application forms are likely to ask you in-depth questions which will test your knowledge of the company, your imagination and enthusiasm for the role and what you’ll be able to offer the organisation as a future employee. Examples of typical questions are:
- Why would you like to work for us?
- Give an example from your past when you have used your initiative to complete a task effectively?
- What is your greatest achievement and why?
Avoid being vague and give specific examples from your past experience. Always keep in mind the perspective of the employer – what they are looking for in a candidate and therefore what they’re looking for in a response. If truly stuck for what to put, career advice websites can give more detailed advice on what employers are looking for from each question and how to best write your response. However, try to avoid giving a generic answer and think of examples that will set you apart from other candidates.
Read carefully what type of contacts the employers want you include and what information they need – one is likely to be a current / previous employer. Always get permission from the reference and remember that family and friends don’t count. It’s also useful to keep your references updated with what jobs you’re applying for and your evolving career aspirations so if contacted they’re able to support your application and suitability for the role.
Complete and check
As with your CV and covering letter, thoroughly check what you’ve written before sending it off to the employer. Don’t leave any questions blank – if it’s not relevant it’s better to at least write ‘not applicable’.
Ultimately, application forms require the same amount of dedication as putting together a CV or covering letter. It may seem like a lot of effort but remember – the more applications you complete, the more familiar with the process you will be next time round. You’re also more likely to be successful for roles that you’re genuinely interested in. If it really seems like too much effort to apply, then it’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t…