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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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5 Completing application forms

Photo of a hand completing an application form.
Figure 4 Application forms

Making a strong application takes time. Getting it right is important because most candidates are screened out from their application forms. Employers often receive far more applications for a job than they can interview. This means they will read quickly through applications, maybe looking for key words and phrases. It is therefore vital that your form shows you are a clear match to their needs. So think carefully about how you describe your activities and skills to match those you’ve identified from the advert.

This can sometimes apply to voluntary work as well, due to the competition for highly sought after roles. Your objective needs to be to persuade the employer that you are worth interviewing because you seem to be a suitable candidate for the job. Your chance of doing this is higher if you submit an application form which is convincing and interesting.

Often, the information in your application form is all the employer will have about you. Put your best foot forward. Be positive about what you have to offer, and leave them to spot any potential negatives for themselves. Showing that you match their needs is important but remember that good presentation is also vital. Use the guidance below to ensure that your application is the best representation of you.

Application check-list

  • You won’t get your application spot on first time, so make some photocopies of the original form for drafts, or save your drafts on a PC.
  • Do what the form asks you to do for example, use block capitals or black ink if these are the requirements. Don’t send a CV unless you are asked for one.
  • Make sure that you complete all the sections. If some sections do not seem to apply, write ‘not applicable’.
  • If there is insufficient space for factual details, such as dates and addresses of previous employers, add a separate sheet of paper, labelled clearly with all relevant details. Check before doing this, that this is permitted.
  • Prioritise what you include. For instance, if there is not enough space to do justice to general interest information, choose those which best illustrate something relevant to the employer.
  • Watch out for questions which have more than one element and make sure you respond to each part of the question.
  • Avoid unexplained gaps in your employment record. If you have been unemployed, say so, but point out any voluntary work, or other projects, you did during that period.
  • Use active word to describe yourself, like 'organised', 'responsible' or 'managed'. These create a more confident and competent impression.
  • Finally, remember to compare what you have written with the analysis you did of the skills needed in the job advert.
  • Before you send it off, do a last check:
    • Visual impression – is it neat and easy to read?
    • Accuracy – have you put the right information in the right places? Are all your dates right?
    • Spelling and grammar – are there any mistakes you need to correct?

Always keep a copy. It might be some time before the interview, when you will need to reread it.

This section has considered how to best present yourself when a job has been advertised and the recruitment process requires you to complete an application form. Sometimes, however, the employer might ask you to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) rather than an application form.

So, this is the topic for the next section.