Application Forms Guide

  | James Innes

Application Forms

An application form is designed to provide an employer with a personal insight into an applicant which complements the factual information provided in a CV.  Application forms usually consist of various sections requiring you to provide evidence of exactly how you have acquired your particular skills and experience, and how you have demonstrated them in your career and personal life.  All applicants will be required to complete the same form so that the employer can shortlist candidates based on an assessment of set criteria.  Therefore, in theory, you stand as much chance as other applicants of being selected for interview as long as the information provided on your application form fulfills the criteria for the position.

The application pack

Application forms can be completed either in writing or online and, either way, it is important that you carefully read the supporting documentation.  This usually includes the job description, person specification and guidance notes, and provides essential information that will help you decide if the job is right for you and if indeed you are right for the job.  Bear in mind that if you really do not fulfill the essential criteria as detailed in the person specification, it may not be worth applying for the position; it could be a waste of your own time and the employer’s time.

Paper-based applications

In general, these should be completed using black ink and your best possible handwriting.  The guidance notes should also indicate whether or not capital letters are required.  It is recommended that you photocopy the form first – this is useful in case you make any mistakes and also to make sure that you can keep your information within the allocated spaces.  Once completed, it is important to keep a copy of the application form for your own records so that you can remind yourself of the information that you gave should you be invited for interview.

Online applications

To complete an online application, you may need to register your personal details first – this allows you to save the application and return to it at a later date by using a given password.  You should be offered the opportunity to print off your application form before submitting it and this is strongly recommended as it allows you to make sure that no mistakes are made and that all sections have been completed.  As with paper-based applications, you should also keep a copy for your own information.

Do your homework

When completing an application form, it is important to research the company that you are applying to.  The Internet is very useful here as it allows you to find out exactly what the company does and the type of person they employ.  You can also contact the company directly if you need to.

Completing the form

Most application forms are separated into different sections, each of which must be completed honestly and in full.  Typical sections are:

Education details

This section usually requires complete information on subjects studied, grades obtained and institutions attended.  It is not usually necessary to convert overseas qualifications into UK format as most employers use a conversion table.

Work experience

You may be required to provide a brief description of your duties for your current and previous positions or you may simply need to list them.  You may also be asked to provide reasons for leaving certain positions and it is important that you try to make these reasons as positive as possible while being careful not to be dishonest.  In this section, you should be aware of word limitations or space restrictions and whether or not part-time and voluntary work should be included.

Competency questions or supporting statement

At some point in the application form, you will be asked to provide evidence of how you fulfil the person specification and why you want to apply for the position.  This is probably the most important part of the application and should be completed with great care and attention.

If competency questions are set, you should make sure that you read each question carefully and that the response you provide actually answers the question.  You will be required to provide specific rather than hypothetical responses based on your experiences either at school/college/university, in your personal life and in the workplace.  There will probably be a maximum word count set for each question and it is absolutely essential that you do not exceed these as many employers will simply disregard any extra words.

If you are requested to complete a supporting statement, it may be necessary to use headings from the person specification to ensure that you provide evidence for each requirement.  If not, it is important that you structure the statement carefully and use key words and phrases that ensure you have fulfilled the criteria for the position.  Again, you may be required to limit the number of words you use or the number of pages you provide.

You will probably need to state why you are applying for this position and you should use the information gleaned during your research into the company to make sure that you emphasise what you can bring to the company and what you hope to achieve during your employment with them.  Highlight your desire and willingness to learn new skills and to make a direct contribution to the company itself.

Completing and submitting the form

The application form will normally require you to provide details of referees, one of which should be your current or most recent employer.  There will also probably be equal opportunities and data protection monitoring sections to fill in, and the form will probably have to be dated and, for paper-based forms, signed to confirm that you have provided accurate information throughout the form.

Always read through the application form before posting it or submitting it online.  Correct any spelling mistakes carefully and neatly on paper-based forms and remember to ensure that you send the form off before the deadline.

Winning the interview

The only purpose of completing an application form is to impress an employer enough to win a place at interview. We have created some top tips to help you fill out the perfect application form and advice on how to prepare for an interview.

Further help

Completing application forms can be a demanding process. Let us put in the necessary time and effort for you. Use our Job Application Form Service, and simply provide us with a copy of an application form and we will detail exactly what you should write on it and where, ensuring that your application will stand right out from the rest.

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