Aim of the application form
Essentially the purpose of an application form is to extract information about your eligibility for the vacancy in a uniformed fashion, so it can be processed as efficiently as possible.
The company will have pre-defined criteria and minimum requirement and your application may succeed or fail based on the strength of your application form. This is the case even if you have a really strong CV!
For this reason, it is worth taking a little time to ensure you create the best impression at this early stage of the recruitment process.
Before you start completing the application form
Some top tips before you even put pen to paper:
- Photo-copy the application form or print a spare copy, if it’s online.
- Research the company, the career opportunities and the actual job
- Read the application from start to finish
Find a quiet place to sit and complete the photo-copied application form before you even touch the actual form. This way, you will ensure you have enough space in the various pre-designated fields to include the information you wish to present.
Use black ink. It’s quite likely that the application form will be photo-copied at some point and black ink makes it easier to read.
If you’re completing it online, take your time. You can usually save a draft copy of your form and return to it later.
Keep a copy, so you can refer to it, should you be applying for multiple vacancies with multiple companies.
Essential information when completing an application form
Write clearly and neatly. If you need to hand-write the application, it is acceptable to write in block capitals if your hand-writing is particularly untidy or difficult to read.
Try to provide all the relevant information requested in response to a question. Do not write in “text” language.
Be concise, detailed and informative. Provide all the essential information but be prepared to elaborate or give examples, should you be promoted to the interview stage.
Always keep referring back to the skills and competencies, the recruiter stated they were looking for in the job description. It is very easy to stray and provide information that you, yourself consider interesting, but the recruiter may regard as irrelevant and inappropriate to include at this stage.
If your work experience to date, is limited or in a totally unrelated field, give some thought to how your skills might be transferable.
Avoid making lists. If you were Head of a Social Committee at college for example, you could say “As part of my role as Head of the Social Committee, I organised trips to xxxxx I took responsibility for the finance and negotiated group rates with both transport companies and venues.”
Competency based questions
This type of question usually begins with “Describe how you would deal with ….?” Or “Give an example of a time when you successfully…..?”
This is an opportunity to address the key competencies and skills outlined in the job description. This element of the application form is likely to be the key differentiator, so it’s worth spending time considering how best to respond.
Give thought to firstly, the skill the recruiter is looking for and think of an example which had the desired outcome. You can draw upon not only past work experience, but sports teams, volunteering, internships or work experience. Try to be specific about your achievements e.g. I was responsible for a research project to ……… Or during my membership, I progressed to Team Captain and enjoyed the challenge of motivating the rest of the team and mentoring new members.
Many companies now include a section requesting details of your ethnic background. This part has no impact on your application and your completion of this section is entirely optional. Employers sometimes collect this data to measure the proportion of ethnic minority applications. The data recorded is subject to legislation and is required to be in line with guidelines set out by the Commission for Racial Equality.
Many companies require applicants to put forward a professional/academic reference and a personal reference, although these are rarely pursued until the offer of employment has been accepted. Always seek the permission of the referee before including their details, so they are ready to respond appropriately should a reference be sought.