While some recruiters or employers will request a CV and covering letter from prospective candidates, others prefer to receive an application form. The vast majority of job application forms are now submitted online.
Recruiters prefer application forms because they allow them to standardise the process and allow them to directly compare candidates side-by-side. This allows them to use software to filter out candidates without the recruiter having even looked at a form – for example, if certain essential criteria or qualifications are missing the application may not reach the recruiter or hiring manager.
Software filtering and the huge volume of applications that recruiters have to work through makes it important to provide as much pertinent information as possible.
What’s the employer looking for?
The majority of recruiters and employers will first identify whether you meet the essential criteria, and then consider how much of the desired criteria you satisfy. This allows them to produce a “long-list” of applicants whose applications they’d like to consider more carefully.
If you satisfy the criteria and your application progresses to the long-list, you’ll then be up against other candidates with a similar level of experience. This is where your application needs to shine. It may be your extra-curricular activities or the breadth of your skillset that sets you apart from the crowd. For example, a candidate who may otherwise miss out on an interview could grab the initiative by writing about work experience in a relevant field, or mention skills they’ve developed outside of work that could be applied to the role in question.
How to complete the application form
If you’ve been applying for a number of jobs or you plan to in the future, it makes sense to collate all of the basic information that most employers will expect you to provide, e.g. personal details, education history, dates of employment, referee contact details etc.
Make sure you’ve let your referees know that they may be contacted. This can also act as confirmation of their contact details.
Check closing dates and make sure you’ve set aside enough time to complete and submit the application. Early appliers can gain an advantage if the employer is processing applications as they come in – it’s typical that they’ll receive a flurry of applications close to the closing date and they may have less time to consider these.
Spend a while researching the organisation that’s offering the role – would you like to work for them? Would it be a good ‘cultural fit’? This sort of research could also give you some insight into the sort of applicant the organisation typically employs.
2. Check the essential and desirable criteria
This may seem obvious, but don’t waste time applying for a job if you don’t satisfy any of the essential criteria outlined in the job specification.
If you come close but are missing a couple necessary skills, or are struggling to provide evidence of relevant experience, you may need to be a little creative in how you address the criteria. Relying on work experience or extra-curricular activities is a legitimate strategy if you feel confident that you have the necessary skills and experience to succeed in the role.
As we mentioned earlier, include as much pertinent information as possible to prove your suitability and ensure that you progress to the long-list.
3. Complete the application form
Read all the way through the form and any accompanying documents before you start writing. It’s not uncommon for people to make progress on an application and then subsequently reading something on the form that discourages them from applying for the job.
Ensure that you answer all questions fully, including those that may not be marked as “required”. The more pertinent information that you provide, the better your chances of success. If there’s a question that you’re confident doesn’t apply to you, “N/A” will suffice – but these sorts of questions are few and far between.
While you should answer fully, the information you provide should be relevant and to the point. Don’t waffle and don’t pad out answers with irrelevant detail.
Make sure your answers are engaging and reflect something of your personality. Employers are looking to recruit people who will suit their organisation and this is your opportunity to showcase your qualities.
4. Check and submit
Most modern browsers and word processors check spelling and grammar on the fly, but you should still read through the document to pick up anything you missed.
It’s also important that you check to make sure your answers have good readability and have addressed the question effectively.
Share the application with a friend, family member or your careers consultant if you have one. A second pair of eyes can be invaluable as you can lose perspective if you’ve spent many hours on the form or have been applying for several jobs.
Make sure you keep a copy of the application so that you can read over it before your interview. It’s likely that an interviewer will ask you questions about your application, so of course it’s important that you’re able to recall what you wrote. You should also have a think about how you could elaborate on those answers in an interview.
Once you’re happy that the application is as good as it can be, hit send!
CVs and “further information” sections
Some employers or recruiters offer the opportunity to attach supporting documentation, and if you have a professional looking CV with information that tallies with that provided in the application form, there’s no harm including it.
If the form has a “further information” section this can be an opportunity to talk about your extra-curricular interests, something that will be more effective if you talk about how your interests have enhanced your skillset. You could also elaborate on the reasons you’re applying for the role and why you think you’re a suitable candidate. These sections are particularly useful if you feel the form didn’t offer you enough opportunity to talk about your qualities.
The most important thing when adding additional information is that it adds value. Don’t repeat points you’ve already made as that’s a waste of time for everyone involved. You should use this extra space to give the impression of a well-rounded individual who understands the role they’re applying for and believes they have a lot to offer the employer.
Job application checklist
- Are all your personal details present and correct?
- Have you checked with referees that they’re happy to be contacted?
- Have you completed all of the fields in the form?
- Have you remembered to include any supporting documentation the employer has requested?
- Did you save a copy to use as a reference?
Job application quick tips
- Read through before you start. Are you sure you have the essential criteria? Are you confident that you want the job?
- Take your time. You could even draft your answers before writing them in full.
- Answer questions fully, ensuring you show evidence that you satisfy the criteria.
- Don’t waffe or repeat yourself – this suggests you’re trying to pad out your answers because you don’t have enough experience to rely on.
- Consider each question carefully. What’s the recruiter looking for?
- Use the opportunity to include further information if it’s offered to you.
- Take a copy of the form before you submit it. You can use it when completing other application but most importantly, you should refer back to it before you interview so you know what you wrote.
If you followed the above guide and got yourself an interview it’s time to take a look at our Top 10 Job Interview Tips.
Still struggling with your application form? Get in touch with M65Jobsearch – we offer support with job applications.