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How to fill in a job application form

How to fill in a job application formIf you’re answering a job advert you might have to fill in a job application form. Read on to give yourself the best chance of making it through to an interview – and not making any mistakes.

Job application forms are a way for employers to find out how suitable you are for a job, so they can decide if they want to invite you for an interview. They can often be completed online, or sometimes come as paper forms. In some ways application forms are like a cross between a CV and a covering letter, and some employers might want you to send these along with your application form – so check all the details in the job advert so you’re sending in exactly what you need.

Each job application form will be slightly different, but will normally ask you to cover most of the same things.

Personal details

This will be your name, address, telephone number and email, and sometimes your national insurance number.

Education and employment history

Like a CV, you should list your qualifications with the most recent first.

For your employment history, all job applications will ask for your previous employers, job title and how long you were there. Some might ask you to list your job responsibilities. If you were working in a shop, you could write ‘serving customers’ and ‘cashing up tills’ for example.

Skills-related questions

Job application forms often have questions about the specific skills the employer wants, rather than just the general list of skills on a CV. So you might get a question like ‘Describe a time when you worked in a team’.

Read the question carefully, then think of clear examples of things you have done and what you achieved. For this question, you could write about something like a presentation you worked on with other people at work or school – describing your responsibilities in the team, how you helped others, how you met your deadline and the feedback you got from your boss or teachers.

Try not to worry if you haven’t had many jobs before though, you can probably think of things you’ve done at school that would make good examples. Take a look at the articles What are my skills? and Going extra-curricular for some inspiration.

Never be tempted to make something up however, since employers might ask you more in-depth questions about this if you’re invited to an interview, and it’s much easier to spot if someone’s lying in person than on paper.

Other questions

Some application forms might also ask more general questions, such as ‘What do you think are the most important qualities for this role?’, which are designed to find out about your personal attitudes to work.

These can be a bit trickier than the skills-related questions, but you can often get a good clue about what the employer is looking for by reading the job description advert. This will normally list the experience or qualities needed for the job, which could be things like ‘good communication skills’ and ‘high level of IT proficiency’.

Don’t just copy this list down however, because you will need to say why they are important, and give specific examples to show that you can demonstrate this. If you are describing communication skills, you could write something like ‘Good communication skills are important to making sure a business runs effectively. I demonstrated this during my work experience placement as a secretary at MadeUp Inc., where I answered telephone enquiries from customers and arranged meetings for colleagues.’

However, if there is no list of essential experience on the job advert, you can find examples of the sorts of things employers want here and in the article  What are my skills?

Equal opportunities monitoring

Often, there will be a separate section on an application form which will ask about things like your gender, nationality, ethnicity and any disabilities you have. This information can't legally be used as part of the selection process, and should be kept apart from your main application. It's collected so that the employer can monitor whether certain groups are being discriminated against. However, if you're not comfortable answering the questions, you don't have to.

References

You might also be asked to provide a couple of references. One of these should be your last employer, or someone familiar with your work like a teacher or tutor. You need to ask your references if it’s OK to give out their details before you put them down.

It’s very important to make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct, and it’s always a good idea to get someone like a parent or teacher to read what you’ve written before you send it off. If you’re completing the application online, you’ll usually have the option to save drafts, so you don’t have to write it and then send it in one go. It's also worth keeping a copy of the form, so you can review it if you're invited for an interview, when you might be asked about your answers.  

Submitting

Many job application forms are either filled in online in a web browser or downloaded, completed and emailed back. However, in some cases you might post off a paper copy, or hand one in in person, especially if you're applying for a job with a local business. The form should indicate how you need to submit it, but if it doesn't, check the job advert and the employer's website, and get in touch with them to ask if you need to.

Remember that no matter how great your application is no employer will look at it if you get it in late – so be sure to check the deadline on the advert and job description so all your work isn’t wasted. Double-check that you have included all your contact details before sending it off.

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