Top tips for completing application forms

Published on: 20 Mar 2012

Some organisations argue that there is not enough detail on a CV to select you for interview and are opting to use application forms or the online application process.

An application is your chance to demonstrate your written communication skills. Be clear and concise. Employers are looking to see early evidence of this skill.

Preparation is the key to making any good application. Find out as much as you can about the company and its recruitment criteria. Information can be found on their website or any promotional literature.

Many application forms are designed to test your powers of summarising briefly. At first glance, the spaces provided for your answers do not appear big enough. Application forms are designed for this purpose. Gauge your answer by the size of the space provided.

Use each section's specified word count as a guide to how much detail they want from you.

Read through the form carefully and follow instructions. Do not attach extra information to your application, such as your CV. Applications are carefully designed to extract the right amount of information to make a decision to select or reject you. Any additional information will usually be ignored. Consider adding it only if the form invites you to do so or if the form is inadequate and gives you no space at all to sell yourself.

Do a draft of your answers first, preferably on a photocopy of the form, so that you can be sure they are going to fit in the boxes.

Make your application a pleasure to read. Any form that is easy to read and the product of intelligent thought will have an immediate advantage. You are wasting your time if it does not look visually decent.

Under no circumstances should you resort to tiny writing to cram more in.

Knowing the ethos of a company puts you in a much better position to explain why you are right for them. This is most relevant for the skills or achievement-based questions.

Have a clear idea of what the selection criteria are and what matching skills, knowledge and experience you have. When answering questions that ask about how you have demonstrated teamwork or found original ways to solve a problem, choose examples from different parts of your life and be as specific as possible when describing them. Concentrate on your personal contribution to whatever it is you are writing about and stress achievements and outcomes.

Ensure that your answers are tailored to the particular section of the application you are completing and that questions are addressed directly and succinctly.

Do not leave gaps in your life. It is always a better idea to explain what happened, for example travelling or a gap year.

Choose your referees with care - reliable people who have agreed to help. Your offer of employment will be subject to receiving references.