Job application forms: What you need to know

Need a new career? Sometimes you just need to apply yourself…

Although you should never underestimate the value of your CV, certain companies may ask you to fill out their own application forms before inviting you for an interview. But with all candidates provided with the same set of questions, how can you make sure yours stands out from the crowd?

To help you get started, here are some of our top tips on how to write a job application form:


What is an application form?

Job application forms are official forms which a company asks candidates to fill out when applying for a job.

Unlike your CV, these forms allow employers to ask a specific set of questions – rather than letting jobseekers choose the format and content of their application themselves.


When will you need to write a job application form?

Primarily, recruiters will ask you to fill out an application form to speed up the recruitment process, and to make it easier to directly compare applications.

Some sectors may also prefer using job application forms due to an ongoing need to recruit, or for positions which result in a substantial number of applicants.

Examples of industries that may ask you to complete one include most facets of the public sector, such as government vacancies, roles in education and certain areas of the military – as well as larger retail companies.


Advantages of job application forms

Firstly, because all the questions are clearly set out, filling out an application form can often help you keep more focussed than when writing a CV.

Employers will clearly ask about all the things they want you to highlight, allowing you to tailor what you write to exactly what they’re looking for.

And, because you don’t have to worry about how it’s presented, filling out your application can take a lot less time.


Disadvantages of job application forms

If you’re someone who relies on presentation, you might struggle filling out these forms.

Additionally, because all of the candidates for the job complete the same sections, it means you sometimes have to work harder to get your personality across and make your application memorable.

And, if you find yourself filling in multiple forms for different jobs, the process can sometimes become a little repetitive.


What to include

This form is your one and only chance to sell yourself to your prospective boss, so you need to make sure you include everything relevant to your application and why you’d be a perfect fit for the job.

Here are some basic things you’ll usually need to include in a job application form:


Top tips for writing job application forms

All application forms will vary, depending on the sector and the role you’re applying for.

However, there are some key things you should always do when writing them:

  • Do your homework. Prior to filling out the form, read up on the company which may be hiring you. Demonstrate that knowledge in your answers and you’ll demonstrate to the recruiter that you’ve used your initiative and that you really want the job.
  • Showcase your skills. Mention any qualifications, achievements and work experience you’ve attained up to this point, tailoring each one to the requirements of the new job. How will these things stand you in good stead? Why do they make you a good candidate? And, how do they help differentiate you from the competition?
  • Make it personal. The questions are intentionally generic so that everyone can answer them. Make your answers personal by providing relevant, concrete examples of when you showed certain abilities or skills.
  • Remember your references. Most application forms will ask for at least two references. Make sure you include trustworthy and authoritative individuals who will be willing to speak up for you. It’s also a good idea to advise them beforehand, so they’re not caught cold if the company does get in touch.


Final thoughts

While what you say is certainly important, how you say it is just as important.

Make sure you avoid straying off-topic, and keep your answers concise and clear to understand, while providing concrete examples to back up what you’ve said.

Use a varied vocabulary, packing in as many positive verbs, adjectives and nouns as possible (without, you know, absolutely, completely, totally overdoing it – obviously). And always ask someone to read through what you write, without just relying on spell check to save you.

Remember: sometimes, style is as important as substance.


Need more CV advice?

It takes an employer just seven seconds to save or reject a job applicant’s CV. This means creating a succinct CV is absolutely vital if you want to land that all-important interview.

To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s new book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.



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