Application forms: a guide

The CV Writer, helping you write a CV, guiding you to a career.

Application forms are an essential part of the job search if you work in certain sectors. Unfortunately, these forms are generally comprehensive and your heart may sink when faced with one, because they can appear pretty impersonal.

But don’t worry, there’s a technique for ensuring that your application form gets noticed by potential employers (for the right reasons), despite their formulaic nature.

Who uses them?

Employers use them most prolifically in the public sector where it’s not about paper-pushing but ensuring there is a systematic way of comparing candidates. Anyone applying for jobs in local or central government schools should expect to fill in an application form for every job applied for. The military is also fond of rigorous application forms that put candidates through their paces before they get anywhere near the assault course part of the assessment.

Additionally, many large commercial companies use standard job application forms because they can be processed much quicker than CVs, which tend to arrive in many formats. If a company is hiring candidates in batches, such as for a graduate programme, it may design an application form for this task with very specific questions. It’s also not unusual for a company to ask you to complete an application form, in addition to a CV.

Why do they use them?

As well relying on application forms to prove they’re using taxpayers’ money effectively in recruitment matters, some employers use them to find out information that otherwise wouldn’t be readily volunteered in a CV.

So schools – and all other organisations that deal with young or vulnerable people – will ask about previous criminal convictions and require a very full employment history to check there are no gaps where an applicant may have been lurking in prison.

Employers also use application forms to assess motivation and make a first pass at essential skills, including spelling, grammar and punctuation (hence why spell checking your application before you click send is so important).

What do they cover?

Despite the wide number of variations of format, depending on employer and the sector, application forms usually cover the same ground:

  • Your personal details
  • Your employment history
  • Your educational history
  • Reasons why you’re a suitable candidate for the role
  • References

Filling these forms out properly is just a case of being accurate, honest and legible. One handy tip for you, always use black ink, even if not requested to do so, as it photocopies better.

What else?

Many application forms will want to dig deeper into your psyche and merits. It may ask a list of specific competency questions or ask you to write a personal statement, explaining your suitability for the job.

Don’t be worried about writing a personal statement, it’s *the* place to express your individual style and creativity.

So next time you are faced with an application form and are tempted to skip it, download immediately. Remember, applications forms are as good as any CV in providing an opportunity to impress an employer with your personal motivations and individual style. Best of all, they do it in a way that employers like!