Welcome to part two of our ongoing series looking into some of the skills you’ll need to master as you apply for jobs. This time it’s application forms. What are they for, and how do you fill them in? Here’s a beginner’s guide…
Introducing the application form
Application forms help an employer decide who they want to invite for an interview. They’re popular with employers because everyone fills in the same form, so it’s easy to compare candidates. The exact content and questions will vary between jobs, but there are some general rules that will help you tackle any application form you encounter.
Three top tips
1 – Meet the deadline
When is the finished form due in, and do you need to post it, or submit it online?
2 – Read it!
Before you do anything else, read the entire form. Twice.
3 – Check, check, check
Before you press send: check spelling, read it through, get someone else to read it, check it again.
Filling in the form
Name and contact details
Get the basics right. This is how a potential employer will get in touch with you to offer you an interview, so make sure your contact details are clear, up to date and professional. That means changing any weird email addresses and not mentioning your Instagram account dedicated to badgers in makeup.
Throughout the form, use positive language to describe yourself, your experience and the reasons why you want the job. Don’t be shy about your achievements: this is the time to shout about them.
Apply for this specific job
If you’re applying for lots of jobs it’s tempting to create a general application form for everything, but that’s a definite shortcut to the ‘reject’ pile. Instead, talk about the role you’re applying for. Be specific: refer to the job description or person specification (a copy will usually be included in the application pack) and make it clear that you can do the job well.
Employers will understand that you’re not going to have years of experience. Just show them that the experience you do have is relevant. For example, say “on my work placement I was responsible for managing my own time,” or “I designed my own website so I have good ICT skills and I’m confident I can quickly learn to use your in-house systems.”
You’ll often be asked to complete a personal statement explaining why you want the job and why you’re right for it. This is the most important part of the form, so give yourself plenty of time to fill it in. Include separate sections explaining how you meet the person specification / job description; why you want to work for the company; and why they’ll benefit from having you.
Whether you’re filling in an online application form or a paper one, write a first draft well away from the form itself. Get it right offline before you work on the real version, and save your work regularly. Writing it by hand? Use black ink, and take your time so it looks neat.
Do they want anything else? A photo, examples of your work, certificates? Make sure you know what you need to send and get everything together well before the deadline.