What is an application form?
An application form is a template that employers require job candidates to fill out, typically comprising previous positions held, education and contact information. Application forms are usually completed and submitted online.
Why are application forms important?
Job application forms determine whether or not you will make it to the interview stage of the recruitment process. It is very important that you get them right. There is little point sending poor quality application forms to employers. There is even less point sending a large number of poor quality application forms to employers. Candidates should focus on making a reasonable number of intelligent, insightful and outstanding job applications to firms they have a strong desire in working for. As far as your job applications go, it is certainly better to produce quality rather than quantity.
Spelling on your application
Correct spelling, structure and clear expression are the most basic and most important prerequisite of any application form. Every year an impressively large number of application forms are received with a sub standard use of grammar, and most are immediately rejected by recruiters. If people cannot express themselves within a written application form they have had an unlimited amount of time to produce, it implies that they don’t check their work or care about the work they do - not great characteristics for employees.
Application forms are used very frequently in every sector and so you need to learn how to write them perfectly.
Make your application form stand out
Recruiters get rather bored with the same old generic responses lifted from application form to application form so it is important to make yourself and your application stand out. At the same time you need to get the balance right: coming across as too "zany" will not benefit your application. You want to demonstrate the same level of professionalism you would show at interview, or actually doing your job once employed, on your application form. Employers also look out for unique points, so consider your application form like a marketing tool
If you won an award at university or achieved the highest A-Level marks in the country, put it in your application form. Make sure you use every detail from your life and experiences to your advantage in your application form.
Check your application
Before you let your form leave your sight, have someone else read it over and check it for you. They may be able to spot mistakes that you have missed or advise you on how to phrase something better. Ask your tutor, careers advisor or even your mother for advice. Everyone has a valid opinion.
Never lie on your application form. Interviews are designed to be probing and are likely to catch you out if you fabricate your answer. For particular careers (such as lawyers and accountants) employees must be exceptionally honest and accountable. Any sign of dishonesty will be looked upon severely. If you are offered the position, you will be required to provide references and original certificates of your qualifications. Make sure your application form is an accurate account of your life, experiences and qualifications.
Take a practice course to prepare for competency based questions in your upcoming job interviews - click here.
Completing Application Forms
If you know what you are doing, completing application forms is a relatively straight-forward process. However, it is essential to spend time and effort checking and perfecting your applications as even a small mistake could result in interview rejection.
The Structure of Application Forms
Most application forms consist of five main sections:
- Personal details
- Employment history
- Activities and interests
Application forms may also include sections that require you to provide answers to specific questions, such as:
- Reasons for applying
- Competency questions
It is important that you complete each section of your application form without spelling mistakes and remember to answer the questions that are asked, rather than what you may think is being asked.
The personal details section of an application form is the most straight-forward part to fill out. Make sure you input the right information in the appropriate places.
You will be expected to list the names and addresses of schools or colleges attended and may be required to give your academic grades for qualifications gained from secondary school through to and including university. First year grades may also be taken into consideration, even though these will not necessarily count towards your final degree classification.
It is very important that you meet or exceed the minimum academic requirements required for the job you are applying for. Some employers, particularly those using automated recruiting systems, will simply disregard applications that fall short of minimum academic requirements.
If you have a very serious reason why your grades do not meet the minimum requirements of the job you are applying for, you should call the human resources department to discuss you application. Be prepared to include documentation to substantiate the reasons you are giving for your poor grades, e.g. a doctor's letter.
Before you start answering this section, read any guidelines carefully to make sure you are filling it out exactly as the employer requests. You will be asked to give details of employment including vacation work and internships, usually most recent first. Include details of holiday or part-time jobs, temporary work, and unpaid or voluntary work experience.
Ideally you need at least three examples of work for your application form. If you have had many jobs, the examples you use should be the most recent and/or relevant to the job you are applying for.
It is important to account for every period of your life on your application form, even if there are periods when you were travelling, or not in formal education or employment. Do not leave dates unaccounted for.
For gap years, be sure to state: exactly what you did, where this took place, how you organised/funded your trip, and what skills you gained as a result of the experience. Try to show your employers that your gap year is an asset to your employability.
Activities and Interests
Make sure you include skills, activities and interests you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Be sure to include highly regarded skills (such as second languages) above hobbies such as cars or music.
You will normally be asked for the names of at least two referees on your application form. Try to use one referee from a period of employment and one academic referee.
Make sure you get their permission before using their details on your application form. A job offer is usually subject to positive references, so it is a good idea to let your referees know they might need to give their opinions of you in the near future.
Reasons for Applying
This section may also be called Personal Statement. In this section you must prove to your employer why you are suitable for the job you are applying for. Try to sell yourself and match your skills, competencies and experiences to those you believe the employer is looking for.
Let your employer know:
- What originally attracted you to this job.
- How your qualifications, competencies and experience are relevant to the job/company.
- What you are willing to do to upgrade your skills or qualifications.
- How your personality would make you a good company fit (use examples of experiences to demonstrate your personality).
- Why this job is a logical move forward for you and how it fits in with your longer term career goals.
You can include details on times when you may have met with employees from the company you are applying to, e.g. at careers fairs, company presentations, work experience, internships, etc. Talk about the impression you have of the firm from these meetings. You may also talk about any independent research you have conducted on the firm's position in its industry, its culture, structure, training, technology, staff retention, history or anything similar.
Competency questions are a common part of application forms.
Examples of competency questions used on application forms include:
- Describe a situation in the past when you have worked as part of a team. Explain the role you played.
- Describe a time when you have explained something complicated to a group or individual and show how you helped them understand this concept.
- Describe a time when changes in your life or living situation meant you had to do something new or different. Say what you did and how you coped.
For more information on completing application forms, visit our forum.