Preparing a Perfect Application Form

  | James Innes


Application forms remain a popular tool for recruiters – as they are convenient for employers to compare and contrast the precise qualities of different candidates. Each candidate has to answer every question and this makes it much easier for the employer to pick those to interview. It is straightforward to sort out those with the most suitable experience, the best qualifications and the keenest attitude.

So we all have to learn how to present ourselves well, whether sending off a form by post or applying online. It may be that very little writing comes into the job you want, but you will still have to get over this hurdle of the application form in order to get offered an interview. Most people dread having to “sell themselves” and find it doubly hard to do so in writing. But your application form needs to be well-written, positive and clear about what you have to offer.

How to fill in an application form

The only purpose of completing an application form is to impress an employer enough to win a place at interview. First, some general preparation:  You must think about yourself, then you need to analyse the position and then you need to present your skills and experience in the light of what is required for that job.

Consider the following three questions:

  1. How can I summarise my skills and strengths?
  2. What do I know about this job?
  3. What do I have to offer this employer?

Think about yourself. What are you especially good at? What kind of work have you enjoyed in the past? Do you have particular experience that makes you different to other candidates?  Which kind of work environment suits you best?

Read all the information available about the job. Think through what the employer will be looking for. What have you found out about the job so far? What sort of organisation does it seem to be? What sort of people would fit with what the company have to say about themselves?

Now put yourself together with the job. What are you offering that is relevant to this position? Can you match your background with the kind of person that they seem to be looking for? What in particular do you think you can offer them?

Now you can move on to completing the form itself. Application forms tend to look pretty much the same. They are divided into different sections. These normally include: personal details (name, address etc); qualifications; work experience; interests and details of your referees. There may be additional paperwork to complete such as an equal opportunities monitoring form. Most of these sections need factual answers and, if your CV is up-to-date, it can provide most of these for you. Do the form in rough first so that you don’t send off any silly mistakes or messy paperwork.

There is normally a question about how your background fits you for this job. You need to work your way through any job description and person specification sent as part of the application pack to show exactly how you satisfy each of the skills, aptitudes or competencies required, with examples to back up any claims you make.

There will also typically be a question about why you want the job, or room for you to make a statement about why you feel you fit the vacancy. This is the key part of the form as it invites you to promote yourself as the best applicant for the job. You need to outline any special qualities, aptitudes or abilities that you have. What makes you a preferable candidate to another? What exactly are the special things that you can contribute to this job as a result of your skills, experience and personality?

What to do; What not to do

  • Do start each application afresh with energy and enthusiasm.
  • Do complete the form in draft before writing the final version as errors of spelling or grammar are never impressive.
  • Do answer the questions on the form fully to do justice to your skills and abilities.
  • Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket – keep applying for different jobs that interest you but be organised about your paperwork.
  • Don’t waffle or use pretentious language; your jargon may not be understood.
  • Don’t be vague; use concrete examples of your achievements and create pictures for the reader.

Points to remember

  1. Think about the job from the employer’s point of view and consider what information will have the most impact on them.
  2. If there is a person specification, make sure that you show exactly how you satisfy each point on it.
  3. Selling yourself depends upon strong statements, enthusiastic language and clarity about what you have to offer. 

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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