In the world of recruitment, your application form is every bit as important as your CV. In fact, some employers prefer an application form in the first instance, shortlisting those applicants’ CVs they would like to see from the information contained within it and this is especially true of public sector jobs. In commerce, time is money and forms are much quicker and easier to compare than CVs as they follow an identical format.
Some employers will ask for all the information they require via the application form and will request that you include a personal statement too, thus negating the need for a separate CV.
The main rule of thumb is to follow the instructions accompanying the application form; present the form neatly and focus on including your most relevant skills. In order to complete an application form properly and thoroughly you might find the process takes as much time and effort as creating a CV and covering letter. Practice makes perfect however, and the more applications you make, the quicker you will become.
Online application forms
These days, many jobs will ask for you to apply online. Make sure you have plenty of time before you begin as some sites will not allow you to save your form and return to it so you’ll have to complete the whole thing in one sitting. If you are applying through a site that allows you to return to your application, always note down your usernames and passwords just in case you forget them.
Draft the application first
It is good practice to copy all the questions contained within the application into a separate document that you can save offline onto your own computer. Now using this as a ‘dummy’ application form, draft your answers offline first, saving them in a word processing package. This will enable you to make sure you’ve not missed anything out and to run a spelling and grammar check before you transpose the information into the online form. You also now have a back-up if there are problems loading the completed online version. Microsoft Word is probably the best package to use as it is compatible pretty much universally.
Read the instructions very carefully and make notes as you go, particularly if you will have to navigate through several different screens during the process. Work through the form step-by-step and complete everything in as much detail as you can.
Paper application forms
Employers often stipulate that paper application forms are completed by hand, using block capitals and in black ink. Always make a photocopy of the original form first and use this for practice before completing the original. Look after the original form; put it somewhere safe until you’re ready to complete it so it won’t end up with a coffee stain across it or creased beyond recognition in the bottom of your bag! Use a new pen for completing the form; it looks very unprofessional if your pen runs out half way through and consequently there are several different shades of black!
What information will be required?
There will be subtle variations in the information the employer requests depending on the position you are applying for, but you will almost always be asked for the following:
- Full address including post-code
- Contact telephone numbers (landline and mobile)
- Email contact address
Always list your most recent education institution first as this will probably be the most relevant.
- Schools/FE colleges/ Universities attended including dates
- GCSE or equivalent including grades
- Further education courses
- Other position-relevant qualifications
Position applied for information
- Title of the job you are applying for
- Hours/days available to work
- When you can start work
Always list your previous employment details starting with the most recent position you held as this is probably the most relevant.
- Contact details of previous employers
- Dates of employment
- Roles in which you were employed
- Reason for leaving
References do not necessarily have to be from previous employers although many recruiters will want to confirm with your last employer that you did work there; between what dates and in what capacity. Some will also ask about your salary on leaving and sickness absence statistics.
If you are still at college or university, ask your tutor if they would be prepared to act as a referee and don’t forget to approach any organisations you have volunteered for or companies you have completed work experience with.
- List of three referees - names, job title or relationship, contact information (indicate whether your referees can be contacted prior to your receiving a job offer)
Check and recheck
The golden rule of completing application forms (online or on paper) is simple: check, check and check again.
- Always check your spelling and grammar; errors here are one of the most common reasons for rejection.
- Ask a friend or colleague to proofread and check the application for you.
- Make sure you’ve completed all the fields that are relevant to you. If a question is not relevant, just put ‘N/A’ (not applicable) in the space provided.
- Don’t forget to sign and date the application form if required.
- Print out or photocopy your completed form before you send it off so that you have a copy of what you wrote. If you get an interview, you’ll need to be able to refer back to the information you provided at application stage.
- Make a note of the closing date for applications and get your form sent off in good time. It’s a good idea to send paper forms by registered post; the Post Office will give you a ‘proof of postage’ slip which you can keep just in case your application gets mislaid.
These tips should get you through any job application form with ease.