Guide

Completing an application form for a job

Updated on 23 April 2022

Learn how to make a high quality application, whether this is for a graduate job, an internship, or a postgraduate degree.

On this page

Application forms are used to select candidates with the right skills, experience, qualifications and motivations for the opportunity. Graduate application forms are meant to be challenging.

They are designed to make you, the candidate, think hard about yourself and your suitability for the opportunities on offer. So it’s important that you demonstrate how you match the requirements of the role when completing your application form.

Preparation

  • Tailor your skills to show how they meet the requirements of the job. A ‘scattergun’ approach doesn’t work well with application forms. Approach each one afresh and demonstrate your suitability and enthusiasm for the opportunity by researching the organisation and the job role.
  • A good tip is to use the Job Description and the Person Specification (if provided) to work out what the employer is looking for. Then present evidence that your skills match their requirements.
  • Gather as much information about the employer and the post as possible through the job description, person specification, brochure, or website, and work out exactly what they are looking for.
  • Consider what evidence you can use to demonstrate that you match the required skills, experience and qualifications. This can come from all aspects of your life, including your course, work experience, interests or voluntary activities. Think carefully about where on the form you can use this information to its best advantage and remember that any examples you use will have to stand up to discussion at interview.
  • Read all instructions provided before you start completing the application form. It's also a good idea to read through the entire form so that you are clear what is required of you.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete the applications form. Do not rush to finish it in one go; most application systems will allow you to take copy to work on in draft or 'save and return' to as often as you like before submitting the final version.
     

Competing the form

  • Impeccable spelling and grammar are imperative to make a good first impression. Don't give the employer easy reasons to reject your application by missing out punctuation marks or failing to spot typos. Ideally, get someone else to read through your final draft answers to ensure you have made no mistakes.
  • Don’t leave any blank sections. If you have no answer so any section, you can write ‘Not Applicable’.
  • Some questions are compulsory and you won't be able to access the next page without completing them. If you are having difficulty with this you should be able to save the form and return later. You can get in touch with a Careers Adviser if you are having trouble completing any part of an application form
  • Be aware that the space provided for a question can indicate its importance to the employer, so be sure to use this effectively.
  • Presentation is important. Use bullet points and bold to highlight information and break up chunks of text.
  • Ensure you make yourself familiar with the job requirements / competencies and reflect this in your application. Use positive and specific words to describe your activities and interests and demonstrate how these match the job requirements. Avoid vague responses and clichés. Be sure to use key words that relate to core skills and criteria outlined by the employer. These may be picked up by software packages that some employers use to scan and sort on-line applications.
  • Ensure you keep a copy of the application form for your own records and future reference.

Your Careers Adviser can provide advice on how to make the most of your skills and experience in constructing your answers, but they do not offer a proof reading service.

Application form questions

All application forms contain questions that require a lot of thought and some questions are perceived as more difficult than others to answer:

Motivational questions

For example: 'What attracts you to this job?' or 'What have you to offer this position?'

These require you to demonstrate your motivation, job knowledge and to match your abilities to the of your employer's needs. A strong answer should reflect your employer's requirements.

Here is an example:

Explain why you have applied for the job function(s) that you noted on the first page. Offer evidence of your suitability (e.g. courses undertaken, work shadowing, skills, strengths and experiences). Emphasise why you consider yourself to be a strong candidate.

"I am attracted to museum work and believe I am suited to it for the following reasons. I would like to use my knowledge of history in a practical, creative way, helping others to enjoy the subject as much as I do. My work experience in the Heritage Centre, along with my degree studies have given me an interest in how history is presented to a wide audience, and, finally, working on projects such as my dissertation, have helped me to become a good organiser of my time and of projects generally. I would put this skill to good use in planning and scheduling exhibitions."

Competency-based questions

These require you to demonstrate skills such as leadership, communication or problem solving that are important to the employer and for the job being applied for. The STAR technique is a useful framework to build your answers around.

Learn about the STAR technique on the preparing for a job interview guide

Writing a personal statement

A personal statement is a short piece of writing that you are usually asked to submit when applying for postgraduate study or research, but you may also be asked for one when applying for jobs.

Writing a personal statement guide

Applying overseas

In some countries, application forms are typical in graduate recruitment, while in others they are rarely used. It is a good idea to find out as much as you can from a prospective employer before you apply.

Enquire about what is typical for the company, even if you feel you are aware of the way things are normally done in the country to which you are applying. This is because some companies may import the hiring traditions and practices of their country of origin, rather than following the norms of the country in which they are operating.

The Careers Service’s GoinGlobal has information about working practices and recruitment procedures in a wide variety of countries.

You can also tap into your own networks in the country you are applying (if you have any), such as family and friends who already work there. Ask them to share their experiences of what worked and what didn’t when applying for jobs.

Check out the country profiles on Prospects and TARGETjobs. Our Careers Advisers will be happy to provide you with feedback on your application form, wherever you are applying.

Book an appointment with a careers adviser