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Application forms & Online applications

The purpose of filling out an application form is to get an interview!  Knowing how to fill in Application forms and stand out from other candidates in the selection process is a crucial skill.  As an applicant, you should always tailor your application to the company and the job to which you are applying.  It is therefore essential to spend time researching your potential employer and paying attention to the specific requirements outlined in each job description.

On this page you will find information about the typical sections contained in application forms, and advice on how to complete one to your advantage.

Before inviting an applicant for an interview, employers want to find out more about the person’s background, skills, knowledge and interest in the role. Application forms usually request:

  1. Personal Details
  2. Education and qualifications
  3. Employment and work experience
  4. Interests & achievements
  5. Additional information
  6. Open/motivation and/or competency-based questions
  7. References

Job applications forms are the first vital step to getting a job interview. This step-by-step guide explains how to give employers the information they need to put you on the shortlist.


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Open Questions:

This area is very important on the application form. For example, a student who completes the form with a one line answer for each question is already demonstrating their lack of interest. Whereas a student who completes a detailed and researched answer is demonstrating their drive and interest in the job. 

e.g. Career Motivation, the employer wants to find out why the student is the right kind of person for the company.  They also want to find out why the student wants to work for that company.  Research is vital, e.g.  awards, initiatives, training, exam results, charity activities, technology, partnerships, clients etc.  It is key for students to link this back to their own career drive e.g. wanting to work for the company because they have the best results and offer, offering  CPD etc.  

Competency Based Questions

A Competency Based Application form requires you to describe some of your personal achievements to date that demonstrate certain competencies (necessary skills and qualities) required for the position you are applying for. STAR is a useful technique to help you answer questions is a confident and concise way, giving the employer the EVIDENCE of the skill, they are looking for.

The situation, task, action, result (STAR) format is a technique used by interviewers to gather all the relevant information about a specific capability that the job requires.

Learn how to apply it in your application and interviews

STAR Technique

Top Tips

Most employers now use online application forms which may also incorporate a selection test and/or video interview as part of the process.

  • Familiarise yourself with what is needed in each section so you can decide what evidence or example is best suited in each instance.
  • On most employers’ websites, registering your details means you can save your work as you go, meaning you don’t have to finish the form in one sitting.
  • Answer all the questions. If a question does not apply to you, make this clear by writing n/a (not applicable) in the box so the employer will not think you have simply forgotten to answer.
  • It is important to stay within their stated word limit. Do not write too little – if the word limit is 250 words you should write at least 200 words in that section.
  • Type your answers first into a word processor, before copying and pasting them into the application form, is easier than typing directly into the web browser
  • Double-check your formatting as you copy and paste - for instance, if you've gone over the word count, the online form may simply cut off the ends of your answers - but going about your application this way means you won't risk losing your progress if your logged-in session times out.
  • Get someone to read over your answers and give you feedback to give yourself the best possible chance of making a good impression.
  • Print the completed application form out and read it through before you submit, as it's much easier to spot spelling and grammatical errors on a printed page rather than on screen.
  • Ensure you have attached any requested documents and click SUBMIT to send your Application. You should receive email confirmation that your form has been received.

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