An application form is your opportunity to promote yourself to a recruiter and convince them you have the skills and experience they are looking for. Create a good first impression by making your answers specific to the organisation you are applying to (known as targeting) and explaining how your experience fits with their requirements.
Get it right
- A job description is a list of exactly what the recruiter is looking for, so read it thoroughly and cover each point in your answers. Do not underestimate the importance of this step, as you won’t be able to sell yourself effectively if you are unsure of the specifics of the job. For unadvertised roles, read job descriptions and Prospects job profiles for similar positions to see what the recruiter is likely to be looking for.
- Use examples from when you have successfully used a skill in the past as evidence to prove you have the skills required i.e. that you have the ability to do to the job well. Think about situations where have used and developed your skills (including part time work, volunteering and extra-curricular activities) and identify the most appropriate example to use for your answer. A good method for structuring your answers is the STAR technique.
- Find out about the organisation you are applying to. What makes them different to their competitors? What are their biggest achievements? Knowing more about them will allow you to sound confident and informed in your answers, particularly when responding to why you want to work for them.
- What are the key issues affecting the industry? Understanding this will allow you to show your interest in the industry and your ability to contribute to the organisation.
- Remember to save a copy of your form, as this will be useful reference if you get invited to interview and can help when making future applications.
What to avoid
- Spelling and grammar mistakes could mean your application is immediately discounted. Check and recheck your work and ask someone to proof-read it for you. Copying and pasting answers and leaving the name of the previous employer you were applying to in the text is all too common an error!
- Sounding like a robot and over relying on a thesaurus. Your aim is to sound professional, but also friendly, genuine and enthusiastic. Phrases about ‘relishing the challenge’ etc can sound bland and artificial. Keep it simple, using positive and active phrases e.g. planned, persuaded, prepared, presented, produced
- Not reading the instructions. Do not be tempted to leave any sections blank or submit your CV instead of completing an answer. Stick to the word limit and submit the form before the deadline.