The key to a successful application form

A properly submitted application form will get you off on the right foot in the job selection process; a poorly completed one will ensure that your application doesn’t get past the first hurdle. Follow our advice to stay in the race for your dream job.

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The purpose of filling out an application form is to get an interview. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind when completing an application will help you focus on the end goal. Employers may receive hundreds of applications for only a handful of positions. The graduate job market is fierce, so you want to give yourself the best chance of success. How then, do you get your application form into the ‘must interview’ pile as opposed to the far bigger ‘reject’ pile? Firstly, you don’t just start filling out the form without any forethought. You need to prepare and show the employer that you put a lot of consideration into your application.

Employers can easily spot a lazy application so give yourself the best chance and think about how you and your skills are a good fit for this job. It is also appropriate for you to recognise areas that you may be weak in, or lacking experience in, but provide examples of skills you have that can assist you in overcoming this. Open-ended questions and personal statements are great opportunities to promote both your skills and yourself to a company. Keep an eye on the word count and follow any word limits set out by the company. Type your statement into a Word document so you can check it for errors before pasting it into the field on the application form. Don’t forget to save a copy of your application form once it has been completed as it is likely that you will need to refer to it again if you are called to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Knock-out questions

Online applications often contain questions that are designed to eliminate certain candidates. For example, do they have a 2:1 degree or higher? If you do not have this and the job requires it, you will be automatically eliminated from the selection process. So read these carefully.

More tips

It is important to remember that employers often do background checks on everything you put on your application form once an offer is made. They also have the right to withdraw offers if certain information is not accurate. Always ensure that you fill in the application form as accurately as possible and inform employers as soon as possible if you notice an error. Many online applications are rejected on the grounds of poor grammar and spelling. Use your commas and apostrophes well; do a spell check and avoid having an overly informal tone. You should also ensure your social media has the privacy settings turned on or that the content on display is appropriate for employer viewing.

What do you put on a job application form?

A typical application form will ask for:

  • Name, address and contact details – Be sure to add these carefully: a missed or incorrect digit in your telephone number could result in you falling at the first hurdle!

  • Details of your education and qualifications – some employers require a full breakdown of all your modules so ensure you have this information when applying.

  • Details of your employment history – this may include dates of employment, job title, and responsibilities.

  • Specific questions relating to skills relating to the job – this section could include four or more questions about your experiences and the skills you have developed. These questions are central to the recruitment process and so require some time and care in answering. You can use the STAR approach here. To use this you describe the Situation, the Tasks you needed to complete, the Action you took and the Results.

  • Career choice – employers want to know why you are applying to their company. This section gives you the opportunity to show employers that you’ve done your homework. Think about why this company is the right choice for you.

  • Referees – usually you will be asked to supply contact details of two referees. One academic and one work related reference will be suitable. Don’t forget to get their permission before you use their names.

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