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Tips on completing application forms

The most common method of applying for a new job is to submit your CV, perhaps accompanied by a covering letter. On occasions, however, the recruiting company may ask you to complete their own application form. This might be because it wants the applications submitted in a standard format, or because it wants more information than would usually be supplied via a CV.

Application forms typically ask you to provide a great deal of detail regarding your qualifications and your previous employment. Naturally, you need to complete every section of the form as fully as possible, and the application form should be a stand-alone document – you should never write ‘see attached CV’ or similar on any section of the form. 

The employment section often asks you to list the names and addresses of your current and previous employers, together with the dates, job titles and duties of your previous positions. It is also likely you will be asked to state your reason for leaving each position, or wanting to leave in the case of your existing role. Good phrases to use here include ‘to seek greater responsibility’, ‘to use a wider range of skills’ etc, rather than admitting you moved primarily for financial reasons. If you were made redundant, say ‘re-structuring’ or ‘re-location of positions’ or similar.

It is also common for the form to include an equal opportunities monitoring form, or similar.

However, the part of the form that people often have the most difficulty with is the freeform text sections. The form may contain several different questions which the recruiter wants answers to, or there may be a single empty box that you are expected to fill with text. Either way, it is likely that you will need to write information that evidences you have the skills and experience to carry out the role. If there is a person specification, you need to make sure that your application form gives examples of how you meet each of the requirements. Rather than just making statements, you need to be as specific as possible, so don’t just state ‘I have excellent communication skills’, but say ‘I can demonstrate excellent communication skills because at X company I was required to write many different procedure manuals, and to deliver formal training sessions.’

Completing this part of the application form may appear daunting, but remember that these are the same sorts of things you may be asked at interview, and that on an application form you have unlimited time to think about your answers, and to have a second attempt at answering the questions if necessary.

Try very hard to edit your answer so it fits into the box, or is within a specified word limit. If you are completing a paper application, rather than a computerised/online application, then practise writing your answers elsewhere first, as crossings out and correction fluid on your form will not look good.

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