Application forms

If you are serious about getting a particular job, it pays dividends to be meticulous and answer each question in the most effective way. You need to produce an application form that will be selected and not filtered out.

How do employers use application forms?

Employers use application forms to select the most promising candidates for interview by asking for evidence of the competencies or skills that they are looking for.

You may be asked to demonstrate specific skills under separate questions, or just given one section in which to prove your suitability. Either way, the application form is your chance to show that your experience and skills match what the employer is looking for. This means you must identify, research and promote your relevant skills in the most effective way.

Before you start

  • Photocopy the form or save it so that you have copies to practice your answers on.
  • Read the form through carefully. Identify the questions about specific skills or where you are asked to describe your suitability for the job, as well as any special instructions.
  • Collect all the information you can about the employer - job description, person specification, brochure, web site - and make a list of what they are looking for (skills, experience, qualifications).
  • Spend some time thinking about the evidence you have that you meet the employer's requirements. Think about all aspects of your experience that you could bring in, for example, your course, work experience, voluntary activities and interests.
  • Talk to your referees before submitting your application form. This is courteous, and will also help them to provide a more considered reference.
  • Check the closing date carefully - make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to complete the form and are not hurrying through it at the last minute.

Answering the questions

Though different questions will need different answers, there are some general tips that always apply:

  • Be concise
    Reading your form should be easy for the employer, so don’t cram the form so full that it is hard work to read. As a rule do not attach additional sheets - the whole point here is communicating your key points succinctly. 
  • Describe your experiences
    Most application forms will want personal details, information about your academic achievements, work experience, university activities and interests. Some of these questions will ask you to describe what you have got out of all these different experiences - the more detailed, the more interesting. Don’t shy away from putting yourself centre stage.
  • Focus on what the employer is looking for
    You need to have researched in detail the company, the job, the current trends. Poor research will result in a poor application form or one that sounds like you could be applying for any job with any company. 
  • Always give examples
    Always back up your statements with an example. It is easy to write ‘I am hardworking, enthusiastic, and motivated’. What sets an application form apart is the evidence and examples that you use to support your claims.

Once you have got to grips with the tips above, make sure you are answering each type of question as effectively as you can. 

Before you submit

A carefully completed form shows the employer that you have given time and attention to completing it; a poorly completed form may demonstrate carelessness and lack of attention to detail, and is likely to end up in the ‘reject’ box. You should check that:

  • You have followed the employer’s instructions exactly.
  • The examples you give for each question come from different areas of your experience.
  • You have read through the form and are happy with it.
  • The form has been proofread both by yourself and someone else.
  • You have actually answered the questions.
  • You have a copy for your own reference and for interview purposes.

Further help

If you would like a more detailed guide, why not try one of these?

If you're applying for a job that requires a CRB check, you can watch this video about the CRB from the Home Office website.

We also have a CV & Application forms clinic where we can check through your application form.

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