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A good application form takes timeā€¦ we would recommend spending three to four hours on research and completion. For a student with time pressures we recognise that this is a significant commitment but it is a worthwhile one. Without a good application you will never progress to the next stage.

Mark Donmall, Logica

Most candidates are screened out when application forms are received by employers.

Improve your chances

By making sure your application form is

  • convincing
  • interesting
  • well presented
  • completed correctly.

Increasingly employers are asking candidates to submit applications online.

Before completing the form

  • research the employer and the work role to make sure you understand what you are applying for
  • draw up a list of key skills required to do the job - often these appear in the advert or job specification
  • organise the information you are going to provide to demonstrate that your skills match the required skills
  • give examples that illustrate that you possess these skills

If you have a disability and are unsure whether to disclose this on an application form, have a look at the managing your disability section of the Great with Disability website, which outlines the issues associated with disclosing a disability.

Get help

If you haven't done so already, look at some of the activities in the About you section to get help with thinking through your skills.

I learned to research every statement and opinion very thoroughly and to look at things from different perspectives. The OU widened my appeal to prospective employers.

OU student

Application form checklist

  • Make several photocopies of the form to use for your first drafts
  • Follow instructions, for example about the use of block capitals, black ink, your own handwriting and word limits
  • Complete every section or insert NA (not applicable) if it doesn't apply to you
  • Take your time and concentrate - it is easy to miss out words and sentences, even when copying
  • Pay attention to your writing style. Use action verbs such as 'organised', 'responsible', 'managed', 'lead', 'planned' to create a dynamic, competent image
  • Check the visual impression - your form may be discarded if it's not neat and easy to read
  • Check you've put the right information in the right places
  • Check for mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Compare what you have written with the job description - is it concise, clearly illustrating why you are right for the job?
  • Re-read your draft answers to the questions while imagining you're the employer. Do they impress you? Would you want to interview this applicant?
  • Keep a copy of the form so that you can read it before the interview

... it's vital that you research the firm... and define examples in your past that clearly demonstrate your skill set and suitability for the role.

Stephanie Ahrens, Credit Suisse

A lack of care when completing an application form is immediately obvious. Short, perfunctory answers to questions show a lack of commitment. If you are not prepared to invest time in your application why should an employer invest time in you?

Mark Donmall, Logica

Avoid

  • adding extra sheets unless the form states that this is acceptable
  • cramming too much text into a small box
  • attaching your CV and referring the reader to it. It gives the impression you can't be bothered to complete the form

What employers say about application forms

The application form is almost the first screen and we know that if you've completed the form and you've completed it well, then you really are quite keen on a career with the company.

Gary Argent, Logica

Watch and listen to employer advice