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Application form top tips

This guide summarises the essential information you will need to know about successfully completing an application form.

An application form provides a potential employer with a standard format in which to receive information from applicants. In an application form you will be asked to provide general information (such as you employment/education history) and a personal statement detailing how your skills and experiences fit into the job specification.

Recruitment packs

If you have requested an application form for a specific role or company, you are likely to receive the following as part of a recruitment pack:

Accompanying letter

This letter should outline the closing date for submission and instructions about how those short-listed for interview will be contacted.

Job description

This document will contain:

  • Job title, grade and salary.
  • The person you will report directly to.
  • Principle aim/objective of the role.
  • Duties and responsibilities of the job.

Person specification

This document describes the person the organisation is looking for and the knowledge, skills, experience and qualifications needed for the role. The personal specification is usually broken down into two categories:

  • Essential - the compulsory qualifications, knowledge, skills, experience, attributes and qualities required. Candidates who do not fulfil the minimum essential requirements will not be shortlisted.
  • Desirable – the qualifications, knowledge, skills, experience, attributes or qualities the employer believes would be beneficial but not essential in an ideal candidate.

Application form

  • Fully and accurately complete the application form as this is what the employer uses to decide whether or not to shortlist you.
  • CVs are not accepted as an alternative to application forms unless this is specifically stated in the accompanying information.

Equal opportunities form

All companies are required by law to have an equal opportunities policy. This gives a commitment to potential applicants that the recruitment process will be conducted fairly.

Company literature

  • It is important to read any literature a company sends to you as you can tailor an application form to fit in with their ethos or approach.
  • An online application process, may not provide you with any company literature, you should search for appropriate documentation and links.

Completing the form

  • Read through the information and advice notes contained in the information pack.
  • Take photocopies of the form so you can make notes and draft versions. Follow any specific instructions given e.g. write in BLOCK CAPITALS or use black ink.
  • Refer to the person specification and make notes against each of the essential and desirable criteria. Draw upon your experience, skills, knowledge, abilities and qualifications.
  • Ensure you complete every section of the form. When dates have to be stated then these should be in chronological order (most recent first) unless told to do otherwise.
  • Complete each section to the best of your ability taking care to be honest and truthful in what you say. Inaccurate information may backfire on you at a later stage.
  • In the employment/career history section include full/part time employment, and voluntary work. Explain employment gaps.
  • The Supporting Statement section of an application form is the crucial section you must complete. See ‘Answering the Question’ section below.
  • Once you have completed the application form, read and re-read the content. Answer all questions, even if you think the content has been covered else where.
  • Keep a copy of all correspondence, forms and letters. Ensure you bring these if asked to interview as they may be referred to at any stage.

Answering the question

  • The Supporting Statement section of an application form is where you provide detailed information to demonstrate that you meet the essential and where applicable desirable criteria associated with the role.
  • Your qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience should directly reference to the job description and personal specification for the role you are applying for.
  • Begin by breaking down your thoughts into knowledge, aptitude, experience and skills and make notes against each point outlined in the job description and person specification.
  • If you have completed an application form by hand, you may wish to type your supporting statement and attach it to the form. Ensure you state on the form ‘Please refer to attached document’.
  • Remember, competencies mean the ability to carry out a task. If they are stated on the person specification as essential you must be able to evidence them.
  • Explain how you meet each selection criterion addressing each one in turn using appropriate headings. For example, if a criterion was ‘Understanding and experience of project management’, use the criteria as a heading, and then describe how you meet it.
  • Ensure you can provide comprehensive answers with relevant examples. If you are unable to provide examples for all the essential criteria you will not be short listed for interview.
  • Be wary of over exaggerations. Ensure your tone is positive and confident without being over the top.
  • Avoid writing a narrative without headings as the employer then has to pick through your narrative matching relevant examples to the selection criteria. You need to be concise and accurate with your examples.