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Career advice - How to make the most out of an application form!

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About application forms

If you are applying for a job in a large organisation or the public sector, you may well find that you are asked to complete an application form rather than submit a CV. Employers often prefer application forms over CV’s as they allow information to be collected about candidates in a standard way that is easy to compare in a fair and impartial way.

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An application form will often be sent out as part of an application pack that includes information about the organisation you are applying to, a detailed job description, a person specification form and guidance notes on completing the application. It is important to read through all of this information carefully as it often contains vital information about what you need to provide on the application form.

Completing application forms

The application form itself will normally be divided into three main sections:

  • Personal details
  • Skills, qualifications and experience
  • Equal opportunities

The employee making the decision about whether to take you on or not often won’t even see your personal details or any equal opportunities information, so the ‘skills, qualifications and experience’ section is by far the most important one for you to concentrate on.

Some common questions or variations of questions often asked on application forms include:

  • Why do you want the role?
  • Duties and responsibilities of previous job(s).
  • Reasons for leaving last or previous job(s)?
  • Give examples of a time when you…solved a problem, managed a team, achieved results under pressure etc
  • Give examples of any other skills or experience that you think may be relevant
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It is important to keep in mind that an employer going through your application form will be looking to see whether you are demonstrating skills and abilities required for the role in every question. In fact, they will often have the job and person spec next to them as they read through your form like a checklist, so you need to answer every question by referring back to a key skill or ability from the application pack.

For example, if you are asked a question such as ‘Tell us about a time when you have met or exceeded sales targets in your organisation’, but you know from the job and person spec that the role also requires problem solving and team leadership skills, this is a great opportunity to feed these points back and you could answer by saying:

"Lead a sales team of 5 people but identified that targets weren’t being met initially due to lack of product knowledge. Organised product training for all team members which subsequently increased sales by 125% and meant that we exceeded sales targets".

Top tips for application forms

  • Carefully read through all information provided in application pack
  • Make a copy of the form and fill this in before attempting the real thing
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to complete the form as they often take longer than you think
  • Make sure you follow all basic instructions
  • Ensure that you’ve answered all the questions fully
  • Check that you’ve demonstrated all the skills, abilities and experience needed from the job and person spec somewhere in your answers
  • Make sure that you’ve checked your spelling
  • Check that all your referees are aware of your application and that you have put them down as a reference
  • Make sure you get your application form in on time as it will probably not even be looked at if it is late.
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