Application forms: the basics

Employers like to use application forms because:

  1. They are in control
  2. They can ask complicated questions
  3. Application forms are more systematic and objective than a CV

Employers want to find out from applications forms:

  1. What have you done?
    • Academics
    • Work
    • Leisure
    • Voluntary
  2. How have you doen it?
    • Skills
    • At what level?


Before you start filling in your application form:

  • List everything you have done
  • Decide what skills you gained from these experiences
  • Delete any that might be tricky if probed further
  • List what the employer is looking for
  • Create a match

Types of questions

  • Biographical questions, e.g. what grades you got at 'A' level
  • Tricky questions, e.g. what is your favourite animal and why
  • Why us? questions - be precise
  • Anything else to add? questions - be careful!
  • Competency questions, e.g. give an example of a team you have been in
  • What was your role? How did the team work together? What was the outcome?

Competency-based questions

Common mistakes made when answering competency-based questions:

  • Going over the word count
  • Not answering all the parts of the question
  • Messy structure
  • Drawing all your examples from one event
  • Getting the emphasis wrong

Emphasis should be on explaining:

  • Situation - 10%
  • Task - 10%
  • Action - 70%
  • Result - 10%

Personal statements

  • Answer all the sections
  • Structure it clearly
  • Analyse your experience rather than just list it
  • Match yourself to their requirements

Online application forms

  • Essentially the same as paper-based application forms
  • Read all the instructions
  • Print off a blank form
  • Word process your answers
  • Paste answers on to application form
  • Keep a printed copy
  • Know when to stop!

Common reasons for rejection

  • Don't meet minimum criteria
  • Irrelevant information
  • Not concise
  • Instructions not followed
  • Grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Messy appearance
  • All talk and no substance!