It’s tempting to avoid application forms when there are jobs you can apply for that just involve firing off your CV with a basic cover letter, but some employers will only accept completed forms. It may seem like a lengthy process, but it’s worth getting it right if you really want the job.
Do your research
Before you even start filling out the form, do a bit of research on the organisation. How big is it and how long has it been in operation? Does it align with your goals and values? What sort of skills are they looking for? Why are you attracted to the role? Pay careful attention to the ‘About us’ section on the company’s website as well as to the job description.
List your education history and qualifications
Jot down where you have studied, what qualifications you gained and what this may equip you to do. Space in this section may be limited, so only list the most relevant details and try to make yourself as strong a candidate as possible based on your educational or work-based achievements to date. If you studied outside the UK, cite the closest UK equivalent as an easy point of comparison.
Give clear details of your work history
Include your job title, the organisation’s name and the location for each post. Record how long you worked there and any qualifications or training you undertook. List the key role requirements and responsibilities, highlighting those that are most pertinent to the role you are applying for. Try to account for any gaps if there is space to do so.
Answer example-based questions clearly
If it’s a paper form, write out your answers on a practice sheet rather than straight into the form in case you make any mistakes or want to revise your answer. Typical questions may relate to teamwork or conflict in the workplace. Think about how you can give realistic examples without making yourself look irresponsible, argumentative or arrogant! They don’t necessarily need to be ground-breaking; just honest, relevant and concise.
Talk about your interests
It may be a job application, but prospective employers want to know that you’re human and have an active life outside of work. Think about how your hobbies and achievements link to the job. For example, volunteering overseas with a charity may be directly relevant to this role, while managing a netball team could show that you have good leadership and organisational skills. Talk about clubs you’re part of, or a role you have at church. Include special achievements such as running a marathon or writing a book.
Write a strong personal statement
Staring at a blank page before you attempt to write something impressive about yourself can be daunting, so spend quite a bit of time on this section. Don’t simply list everything you’ve done up to now in chronological order. Think about what makes you tick, both in work and outside it.
What are you passionate about? How does that reflect on your work and your private life? Why are you the right candidate for this role? What sets you apart from the others? Why should the hiring manager take a chance on you? Try to give detail without too much unnecessary waffle. Use positive language and avoid technical jargon.
Provide references if required
List two referees, one of whom should be your current manager or academic supervisor. Make sure you ask their permission and tell them about the job you’re applying for. Remember to include their full name, job title, email address and contact number. If you don’t want them to contact your current boss right away, make this clear.
Check it over
Before you send it off, print out your application form and give it a good read through. Make sure it flows well and is easy to read. Cut out any repetition, typos and formatting issues. Ask a friend or family member to check it over and ask for their honest feedback. Keep a hard or digital copy for your own reference.