An application form is your opportunity to market yourself to a recruiter and convince them you have the skills and experience they are looking for. In order for your application to be effective, make your answers specific to the organisation you are applying to (known as targeting). Remember to save a copy of your form, as this will be useful reference if you get invited to interview and can help when making future applications.
Get it right:
- Read the job description carefully. You won’t be able to sell yourself effectively if you are not sure what the recruiter is looking for and what the specifics of the job are. You will then need to address each of these points in your answers. If it is an unadvertised role, read job descriptions for similar positions and use the Prospects job profiles to get a sense of what the recruiter is likely to be looking for.
- Use examples from when you have successfully used a skill in the past as evidence to prove you have the skills required for the role. (See the STAR technique below for information on how to structure your answers). Think about what you have been involved in over the past few years where you have used and developed your skills (your CV can be a useful starting point) to identify the most appropriate situation to use for your answer.
- Part time jobs, volunteering and involvement in clubs / societies can also be used as evidence of skills e.g. working in a team or taking the initiative. Examples from work, study and extra-curricular activities show you have a range of experience.
- Find out about the organisation you are applying to. What makes them different to their competitors? What are their biggest achievements? Look beyond just the department you are applying to. Knowing more about them will allow you to sound confident and informed when answering why you want to work for them.
- What are the key issues affecting the industry? Understanding this will mean you can show your interest in the industry and your ability to contribute to the organisation.
What to avoid:
- Spelling and grammar mistakes can mean your application is immediately discounted. Check and recheck your work. Ask someone to proof-read it for you. Copying and pasting answers and leaving the name of the previous employer you were applying to all too common an error!
- Making it too general.
- Sounding like a robot and over relying on a thesaurus. Your aim is to sound professional, but also friendly, genuine and enthusiastic. Phrases about ‘relishing the challenge’ etc can sound bland and artificial. Keep it simple, using positive and active phrases e.g. planned, persuaded, prepared, presented, produced
- Make sure you read and follow any instructions you are given. Do not be tempted to leave any sections blank or submit your CV instead of completing a section. Stick to the word limit and submit the form before the deadline.
Find out more…