Application forms can be pretty time-consuming to fill out, especially if you're doing a few at once and you feel like your CV says it all anyway.
But remember, employers take application forms very seriously. They will use them to compare applicants and check you have the right skills as well as enthusiasm for the job. If you don't put some effort into your application form, they might not think you're serious about the job.
So yes, make sure you have an awesome CV, but follow these tips to make sure you know how to fill out an application form.
Start with this short video, then read on for more detail:
1. Plan your job application
Make sure you find out and make a note of when the deadlines are for submitting postal and online applications. Give yourself plenty of time to write your application too. Employers may not accept forms after the deadline.
2. Get the details down
Make sure you read through the whole job description and make bullet point notes about all the job responsibilities listed and the qualities / experience they are looking for.
3. Do your research
If the company has a website, go online, find out what they do, research recent projects and events and make notes. This will come in very handy for questions like 'why do you want to work for us'?
'When filling out a job application, do your research and get all the details right'
4. Be direct
Always answer questions in full and be direct. You don't have to write too much, but it will be obvious to the reader if you have not answered the question properly or copy and pasted text from your CV.
If you are worried that a question might make you look inexperienced (e.g. if the form asks about a particular type of qualification and you don't have it), don't make something up to sound good, just be direct and honest.
If you can, try to explain how the skills and qualifications that you do have demonstrate your experience in this area e.g. by showing that you are a fast learner. However, if they ask if you have a driving license and you don't, you need to hold your hands up and say so!
5. Always do a rough draft of your job application
Read the job description carefully and then write down headlines for all the skills they ask for e.g. communication skills, experience using MS Office, event organising. Under each headline write bullet point notes of all the achievements and experiences you have that match these skills. It will be much easier to answer questions, once you have made some organised notes like this.
When you have finished your draft, make sure you spell-check everything carefully. Try not to use the same words and phrases too many times throughout the form.
Activity: Write down some alternatives to these common words and phrases used in application forms: "motivate, experience, learn, qualification, confident, communication, in charge of, keen, organise, represent"
6. Get the tone right
Keep your application formal (no slang or emojis!), and don't worry about cramming lots of technical and professional jargon in there. The employer will be aware of your age/experience and will not be expecting to see lots of expert terminology.
So don't mention search engine optimisation or dark matter unless you're prepared to discuss it in your interview.
7. Take a break
After all that work, you've earned yourself a break. Go make a cup of tea, watch TV, listen to Taylor Swift (no judgement) or whatever you do to relax. Come back to your application in an hour with fresh eyes and have a go at a final draft.
8. Proofread your job application
Crossing the Ts and dotting the Is might sound tedious, but when it comes to how to fill out a job application, it's crucial. When you think you've finished, get someone else to read your application.
They don't need to know about the role or your specific talents. They just need to check that it reads well and makes sense (if you finished writing your form at 2am, a fresh pair of eyes can help!).
Do a final proofread yourself, then you should be ready to send the application form off with any other other information the employer has requested ( e.g. exam certificates).
One final tip
It can be useful to have something up your sleeve to really make your application stand out. It could be a qualification, an unusual hobby or a personal achievement. Whether you run marathons, organise flash mobs or build miniature rockets in your spare time, don't forget to include it; activities like this show commitment, creativity and initiative. They might just stick in the head of the person reading your application too...
And last of all...
Now you know how to fill out and application form, and if you've been following our instructions, you should be ready to send off your application! Double check the address and, if you're sending by email, you might want to ask for a delivery receipt to make sure the application has landed safely in the employer's inbox. Good luck!
In the classroom? Explore this article as an interactive presentation:
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