How to ace an application form

CV expert Emma Alkirwi has some advice on improving how you pitch yourself on an application form after research showed this is an area some older workers find difficult.

Laptop with CV on it depicting job search


An Office for National Statistics study this week found that one of the main things older workers who have lost their jobs struggle with is online application forms. Our CV expert Emma Alkirwi has some advice on how to prepare.

More and more companies are now using application forms in their recruitment process as this provides a consistent platform to collate the same information for each person who applies. While a CV is still very important to have as it is still widely used, an application form gives the recruiter the opportunity to ask the specific information they require and filter out those individuals more committed to the process. More often than not, application forms also require you submit a CV as well.

I have listed some tips which will guide you when completing an application form below:

1. Be prepared

Have your most recent CV to hand (this should have all your dates and job responsibilities presented well) and all the relevant information to the position to hand, including the job advert. It is also beneficial to have a pen and paper at the ready so you can jot down notes. Also ensure you are in a quiet environment so you are not disturbed. You need to ensure you match your experience to the job description and do not just copy and paste everything into the application form blindly. When applying for any role always tailor your CV/Application form.

2. Read through the job application thoroughly

Some applications will let you download the application so you can read through all the information required. However, others you will have to save each section before you can view the next section. But at the beginning of the application it should explain what is going to be required. This means you should be prepared for what is to come. Identify the requirements for additional information, in particular competency-based questions (See point 6 below).

3. Type don’t write

Most applications whether they are online or on an actual form will allow you to type into them. You should use this method rather than writing so you can ensure all your information is neat and there is not a risk of the recruiter not understanding your writing. This also means if you make a spelling mistake you can just delete rather than starting all over again.

4. Draft your answers

Type these in a separate document so you can proof read them ensuring they are free of spelling and grammatical mistakes. These could also assist you in future application forms. It will also help you check the word count, something which digital applications normally restrict to avoid ‘war and peace’ and to keep answers focused.

5. Typical information required

Nearly all applications will require you to input you personal information (names, address, phone number, email etc), education details (subjects, grades and institutions), previous positions held (you will need dates of when you worked and possibly the employer’s address) and you could be asked if you have driver’s licence etc. Be accurate as you may be asked to provide education certificates or licences as part of the screening process when it reaches the interview stage.

6. Competency-based questions

Competency based questions are where the recruiter will ask you questions to gain a deeper understanding of your skills and experience. These will be defined according to what is important within the job responsibilities you are applying for. The trick is to be SPECIFIC and succinct with your answers. Make sure you use the STAR approach to structure your answers (see our earlier blog here for details of the STAR approach and how to deal with competency based questions in an interview).

7. Personal statement

Most application forms ask for additional information to support your application whether that is additional qualifications, achievements, extra-curricular activities or a personal statement of your attitude, passion and commitment to the field or role. This is often an underutilised aspect in an application form so make sure you put something in that is relevant. Think about the company you are applying for, the role and what is required for the job covering your attitude, technical skills and interpersonal skills and try capture it succinctly. This is the one last opportunity to secure an interview so make sure you use it.

8. Keep a copy

Make sure you save a copy of the application so you have this for future reference and can read through it prior to interview. Sometimes after submitting it you may lose your access to the portal or forget your login password to the account. Better to be safe rather than sorry!

Hopefully these tips help guide you when completing application forms and ensure you have the best chance of securing that interview.

Good luck!

*Emma Alkirwi is the Managing Director of the CV Guru which is a leading service provider of professionally written CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, cover letters and they also provide specialist consultancy services.  Emma has over 10 years’ experience in recruitment and employment-related services covering a wealth of industries. Having been a professional employment consultant for several years, she has provided professional advice covering everything from professional CV/LinkedIn writing, effective job searching, interview skills and preparation, presentation techniques and general professional coaching.

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