Application Forms

The application form is probably the first contact you will have with a potential employer, so you need to make a good first impression and give yourself every opportunity of progressing on to the interview stage.

A good application form needs to demonstrate to the employer why you would be suitable for the job, and it should make them want to find out more.

Before starting to complete the form make sure that you have read it through completely, including all of the accompanying instructions.

Most application forms are downloadable documents to be emailed back once completed.  If you do have to complete a handwritten form make sure that you use a black pen and be vigilant with your spelling and grammar.

Whether it is a handwritten form or an electronic one, always keep a copy – this will be invaluable when preparing for the interview.

Typical sections in an application form include:

  • References: You should try and choose 2-3 individuals who can provide information about your character, your academic studies, your work experience and any extra-curricular activities you have undertaken. Always obtain permission before listing someone as a reference. 

    Some examples of who you might ask include: Lecturers from your university, line managers from your previous or current employment/work experience, community members you have supported via volunteering, coaches you may have worked with as a part of a sports group or society and placement supervisors

    For employment references, consider those who can speak to particular skill sets; someone who can clearly articulate the experience and skills you have brought to a role or job.  When you speak with potential referees, mention the types of skills and personal characteristics that are being sought by the company to which you are applying.  Providing them with a copy of your CV and examples of a few of your accomplishments may be helpful as well.

    Although employers may ask for references at any point during the recruitment process, it is helpful to have your reference list handy when completing employment applications.

  • Work experience: This can cover paid jobs, voluntary work and any work placements you have been involved with.  Think about what skills you have gained through all your work experience; make sure you match them to the job role criteria.

  • Education and Qualifications: Think about all the qualifications you have gained, or with results still pending.  If there are gaps in your education, or any further explanations required, this can be placed in the ‘Additional Information’ section.

  • Competency based questions: These look to identify your skills and strengths in relation to the job role.  Think carefully about what you have done and what the positive results were following your actions.

  • Additional information to support your application: This section invites you to provide any other information to support your application, and it requires careful consideration.  Think about how you want to organise the information you are providing; it needs to flow from one idea to another, making it easy for the employer to read. 

Matching Your Skills to a Person Specification

Always check the person specification before completing your application form.   This document outlines the knowledge and skills that the employer is looking for.  These criteria are divided into two categories: those that are ‘essential’ and others that are ‘desirable’.   In some cases, the criteria will be personal attributes, and in others they reflect particular skills or knowledge that you will be required to demonstrate if you get the job.

You cannot simply state that you fulfil the criteria.  You have to give examples to illustrate when you have done this previously. 

Some employers receive hundreds of applications for one role so you need to make sure that it is immediately obvious that you have the skills, experiences and qualities that they value most highly.

Think of ways that you can present your information that proves you meet the criteria such as using bullet points, underlining headings or using bold text to attract the reader’s eye to the relevant parts of your application.

Before beginning your job application form consider these hints:

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the form – sometimes you can’t return to complete the form at a later stage, and so you will need to allow yourself enough time to finish it all in one sitting.

  • Research the company and read through any information about the job role before you begin the application form.  Make sure that you are matching your skills with the requirements of the job and use the person specification to structure your statement.

  • Consider doing a first draft of the form – especially the sections that require more information, such as the ‘Additional Information’ section.  Perhaps print the form so you can make notes in each section. Once you are happy with the information and how you are expressing it you can complete the real thing.

  • Consider the language that you use when talking about your skills, experiences and strengths.  Make use of powerful verbs, such as ‘achieved’, ‘coordinated’, ‘organised’, ‘evaluated’, etc.  Ensure that you express yourself in a positive manner.

  • Be concise when making a point.  Employers may have to read through hundreds of applications, so ensure your information is succinct.

  • Proof read the form before submitting it: have you answered all the questions correctly? Have you checked your spelling and grammar?

  • Make sure that you submit the form before the deadline – it is unlikely an employer will accept late applications.

Speculative Applications

Applying speculatively can open up a new world of job opportunities.  Besides securing you a permanent position in a company, speculative applications can also lead to work placements, work shadowing and even temporary work; at the very least it increases your network of contacts.

The first step in applying speculatively is identifying employers you would like to work for, and determining why.  Before sending anything off, do some background research on the companies so you have lots of details to impress them with.

Tailor your CV and cover letter to each speculative application – be specific in your letter as to what you want: you could suggest that you undertake a work placement, initially, with a view to gaining a more permanent position in the future.  Send the CV and cover letter to a named person – make a phone call to introduce yourself and discover who to direct the information to. Allow a couple of weeks before following your speculative application up with a phone call.  

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