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Job Application Forms

Whilst many job vacancies ask for a cover letter and a CV, others will require the applicant to fill in a job application form.

At first, job application forms can seem a hassle, but often it’s simply a case of typing the information on your CV into the relevant sections.

Plus, these forms often give you a lot more room to talk about your skills and can give your potential employer a much broader and more complete overview of you.

The reason companies will choose to use forms over CVs is they can make it easier to compare the candidates, as they’re all formatted the same.


How to fill in a job application form

Job application formsThe one main thing you should take away from this article: when filling in job application forms, follow the instructions exactly. If you do this, you’re off to a good start.

But let’s look in more detail at how to fill in a job application form.

1. Always do a draft

If it’s an online form, draft the answers in a word-editing program before inputting them. If it’s handwritten, take a photocopy to draft on, and then rewrite it. This is especially important with a handwritten form as there’s no backspace or delete in real life, and you really want to avoid crossing words out.

2. Proofread your form

Proofread your job application form thoroughly, and if you have a friend available to help, ask them to proofread it too. Basic spelling and grammar mistakes could cost you the role, even if everything else about your application shines, so double check things such as the use of apostrophes, homophones (such as their/there) and other common grammatical mistakes. The best part of getting a friend to double check your form is that they may think of things to include in your form that you haven’t, because they’re looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes and they’re not hindered by any attempt to be modest.

3. Take a copy

If it’s an online form, save a copy in a word-editing program, and if it’s handwritten, photocopy your completed form. This way, if you are called for an interview, you’ll be able to remember what you wrote in your form and prepare for what the interviewer might bring up. This is especially useful if you answered any situation-based questions (for example “talk about a time when...”) in case they mention it!

4. Personal statement

Many job application forms have space for a personal statement. This is likely to be a big blank box, often with a word limit. No matter how wonderful you think you are, it’s important to stick to the word limit. If your personal statement is too long, potential employers are more likely to skim it rather than read it with interest. Don’t just repeat what the rest of the form already says about you either, a personal statement is your chance to shine, to talk about what makes you the ideal candidate for the role.

5. Reasons for leaving previous employment

Often, when filling in the sections on employment, you’ll notice a box that asks for reasons for leaving your previous employment. Be honest, but not too honest. If you left a career because you hated your boss – don’t write that! Answers like “my boss was terrible”, “it was boring” and “hours were too long” are not going to make you look appealing. That said, don’t just make up something, especially if you’ve got that company as a reference. Instead, look through the following examples and try and base your answer around these.

  • Went back to education
  • Relocated
  • Change of career path
  • Temporary contract
  • Needed a full-time role
  • Looking for more responsibility
  • Moved on to higher paying role

As a recent graduate, it’s most likely that your reason will be education related.

6. Gaps in employment

Do you have any gaps in your employment history? As a recent graduate, this may be unlikely, but let’s say you took a year out after completing your degree. Don’t just ignore this fact, instead you should mention (briefly) what you did. If you went on a gap year, you may even be able to use this information to enhance the content of your job application as it would have been a learning experience.

7. Skills and abilities

Generally, you want to ensure that any skills and abilities you list are relevant to the job you are applying for. Most jobs have further information available, which will usually list what skills are essential and which are desirable. Make sure you mention these! For instance, if it’s essential you are a fast typer – explicitly include the words ‘fast typer’ in this section. Not sure what kind of skills employers are looking for? Here’s a list of some common ones

  • Self-motivation, ability to work alone
  • Communication (verbal and written)
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Planning and organisational Skills
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity – being able to think ‘outside the box’
  • IT skills (and specific subsets thereof, like databases)

Of course, don’t just list these, make sure you can back them all up, and do add in anything else you think of!

8. References

Finally, references. Make sure before listing your references that you have contacted them in advance and that they are happy to be your referee. Also, ensure any contact details are up to date

Applying for a job – crafting a CV

If the job that you are applying for requires you to provide a CV rather than fill in a job application form, much of the same rules and recommendations apply. Include relevant information and exclude grammatical errors – basically, take your time to craft a really good CV and then get a friend or family member to read it over for you.

Here are our top CV no-nos

Typos – don't rely on spell check to do the hard work for you. Go through your CV with a fine-tooth comb. Once you've checked it, check it again, and again, then give it to someone else to check!

Foolish fonts – if you thought you could add some pizzazz to your CV by using a quirky font, stop right now. Cheesy fonts scream, “I have no idea what I am doing”. Keep it professional and simple.

No cover letter – it is essential to include a cover letter as this is the most effective way to introduce yourself and grab the attention of the interviewer. The cover letter is your opportunity to show exactly why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

Blank space – your CV doesn't have to be overly wordy and certainly shouldn’t be ten pages long, but a CV that is only half a page will give the impression that you don't have enough job/life experience to be applying for the job. Even if you haven't ever done paid work, you should at least have other relevant aspects of your life that you could include, such as volunteer work or hobbies.

Inaccuracies – small inconsistencies can and will jump out at the reader. Do you have full stops after some lines but not after others? Have you kept a consistent font type and size throughout? If you want to come across as someone who is attentive to detail, then pay attention to the little things.

Objective statement – Objective statements are outdated. Forget about including an objective statement in your CV and opt for a short, snappy, powerful headline instead.

Irrelevant Information – be sparing with what personal information you include on your CV. Too much information can be overkill. If it's not relevant to the job application, scrap it.

Bad formatting – it’s important that your CV is easily digestible. Don't make it hard to read by using lengthy sentences and big blocks of text. Use bullet points, headings and an overall visually pleasing structure.

Burying Important Information – when writing your CV think about the benefits you have to offer the position, then make these benefits as obvious as possible. The interviewer will be asking themselves “why should I interview this person?”. Make sure the answer is loud and clear.

Including every job you've ever had – conversely, you don't need to list every job or life experience you've ever had. If it's irrelevant or something that happened years ago, lose it. Your CV should present you in the most compelling light. Stick to recent achievements and accomplishments.

With all this in mind, you should have no issue in filling in any job application forms that come your way. Good luck!


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