Many employers now prefer application forms to CVs: they’re easier to directly compare because, unlike CVs, they follow an identical format.
If you're required to fill out an application form for a job, you'll still need to work out the best way to present your skills and experience. This is why forms often take just as much time and effort as writing a CV and covering letter.
However, good news: the more forms you fill in, the quicker you'll get at doing it.
Where to start
Always read the instructions on the form very carefully and follow them. Taking it step by step and using the guides on the company’s website will ensure you to give it your best shot.
Draft your application offline first – in Word – and save it to your computer. This way you can run a spell check before you copy the information into the online system. It also means you'll have a back-up if there's a problem with sending the form.
More and more sites offer the option of storing your application online and coming back to it. If you do this in more than one sitting, make sure you note down any usernames and passwords you create, so that you can get back in.
If you’re filling in a form by hand, write as neatly as you can in black ink – this is often stipulated and it would be a waste to be discounted from an interview for something so small. Remember to use block capital letters if the form asks you to!
A good way to avoid mistakes and crossings-out on the final form is to photocopy the original and practise filling in this copy first. Take care of the original form – don’t spill any coffee on it or leave it crumpled in the bottom of your bag!
This is a bit like a cover letter; you should provide comprehensive answers for each of the points in the person specification (which should be provided along with the job description) – how your skills and experience prove you fit each . You might like to present them one by one in bullet points, so the person reading it can clearly see to which point you’re referring and you use the space effectively.
Equality and diversity
Organisations often ask you to fill in an ethnicity and sexuality background form. This is not used for selection and is usually kept separate from the rest of your application (so the person reading your form is not aware of any of these details). They are usually simply used by the HR department to check they are receiving applications from all sections of the community.
You should always have the option not to divulge this information if you wish.
- Read it over a few times to check for spelling and grammatical errors - these are one of the most common reasons applications are rejected
- Ask someone else to proofread it and check it for you
- Check you've filled in all the boxes that are relevant to you. If you leave an empty box the employer might think your form is incomplete. If a box isn't relevant, write “N/A” (not applicable) in the space provided
- Photocopy or print out the finished form, so that you have a record of what you've written. You'll need to be able to refer back to it at the interview stage.
Image courtesy of Lauren Mancke