The form itself

When you receive an application form, either photocopy it or use a blank sheet of paper to practise your answers (many newsagents, post offices, public libraries and careers services will have a photocopier you can use).

To get you started, make a list of the things the employer is looking for and match yourself, your skills and experience to each of the questions being asked on the form. When you mention a new skill, quality or experience make sure you give an example – linking back to why it makes you right for the job. The employer is looking for you to demonstrate you have the qualities needed to do the job.

For example, were you in a school netball or football team for a few years? Are you a member of a society or social club? Have you done any voluntary work? Think about how the skills you used in these activities might be useful to the employer – e.g. problem solving, project management, time management, communication skills. If you cannot think of any examples, ask your friends and family – they might be able to remind you about activities you have forgotten or qualities you do not even realise you have!

Handy tips:

  • Make sure you answer all the questions. Never leave a section blank; each question has been designed by the employer for a reason. If you are certain a question is not relevant to you, explain why or write ´N/A´ (not applicable) – it shows you have not just forgotten to fill that bit in.
  • Use clear, positive language and focus on your strengths. Concentrate on achievements that are most relevant to the job in question.
  • Never tell lies – you will be found out eventually and it could lead to your dismissal even if you do get the job. It is never worth it!
  • Keep responses short and to the point. You do not have to fill in a whole section.
  • Equally, if you have a lot to say do not try and cram it all in – it will look messy and be difficult to read. Instead, attach some extra sheets (but remember to mark them clearly with your name, the job you are applying for and the relevant question).
  • When writing a list, consider using bullet points for variety.
  • Book a short interview with a careers adviser to discuss the more challenging questions.
  • Keep a copy of the application form to remind yourself of what you have written!
  • Send a covering letter along with your application form, unless you are asked not to.
  • Send it in an envelope big enough to hold it without folding it. If it´s folded it will look untidy.

There is usually a section on the form which asks you to write about yourself and why you want this particular job (it is often at the end of the form and may have a heading ´supporting information´ or ask you to ´state why you think you are the right person for the job´).

This is your chance to shine! Think about why you want this job. You can give relevant details here that have not been covered elsewhere in the form. You might want to include interests and hobbies that are relevant.

It is also a good idea to get someone else to check over your answers before you start filling in the final version of the form.

Only start to fill in the application form when you are happy with your draft answers.

Copy the completed form before you send it. Put the copy in a file with all the information relating to the job. If it is an on-line application, ensure you have a copy before you submit it to the company.

Dealing with application forms

The form itself

Online application forms: Dos and Don’ts