Published: 17 March 2022
Applying for jobs can take time and a lot of effort. While it’s tempting to send the same application in for every role, to ensure you have the best chance of getting that interview you’ll need to cater your answers to each specific company and position.
This habit of applicants sending in poorly thought-through applications is the reason so many companies now prefer ready-made forms. So, how do you complete these in and stand out in a competitive jobs market?
When to fill it in?
The first thing to know is that application forms can take time to complete. While it’s tempting to look at the deadline and think you can leave it to the last minute, the reality is you need to give yourself as long as possible.
Another reason to send your form in early is it shows eagerness and will help put your name at the top of the pile when the hiring team come to short-list applicants.
What do they include?
While every form is different and catered to the individual position, you’ll see some common themes with every application.
This is the very top line of information the company will need when considering you for a job. It includes your name and contact details.
While it may feel like you can rush through this, it’s really important to double-check everything you put down.
You don’t want the hiring team to love your application only to find they can’t get in touch with you to offer an interview.
Most jobs will have a minimum level of education needed to complete a role. Luckily for you, you are in a great position here because you’re studying at the University of Sunderland in London.
They’ll likely ask for your grades, start and end dates of courses and where you studied.
How much detail you go into is quite individual, though. If you’ve come straight from school to the University, adding your A-levels and GCSEs makes sense.
However, those you going with long work histories might want to only focus on your higher education degrees.
Giving the hiring team a full picture of your work history is a really important way of showcasing your experience and suitability for the role.
Start with your latest position and work backwards, going into detail about your responsibilities, focusing on the ones that match the requirements of the job you’re applying for.
It’s a good idea to include internships and volunteering, even if they don’t seem relevant, because it displays your motivation and work ethic.
This section is your chance to showcase the full extent of your personality, in connection to the position of course.
Pick out the hobbies and activities you like doing in your free time that could relate to the role.
You might be surprised by how your interests can align with the requirements of the job. Say you are part of an amateur dramatics society, you’ll have great public speaking skills.
Think through your hobbies in this way and always bring them back to the role.
Most of the time, companies will ask you for two references, though some extend this to three.
Normally they’ll need to be from your work experience, but if you’re applying as a graduate it’s not uncommon to put lecturers down instead - though it’s important to ask permission first.
The other thing to note here is you will need to specify whether they can be contacted straight away.
If you’re currently working and want to put your manager down as a reference, it’s sensible to ask the company you are applying for to hold off getting in touch with your boss until you’ve been offered the position and handed in your notice.
There will normally be a box to put this preference, but if not, be sure to contact the HR team to make your request known.
The largest and perhaps most complicated part of an application form is the personal statement.
Here you’ll be asked to talk about how your experience and knowledge is suited for the role.
For a more detailed discussion on how to write a personal statement, check out our article from last year.
Just remember to write it in your own words, cover every aspect of the role and show off a little – it's your best chance to stand out.
While this may all sound like quite a lot to do for every job, you will soon find that the more you complete the easier it gets.
You’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t with each application. Like many things in this process, practice makes perfect.
For more advice and information, go to our Careers and Employability page. You can read about employability skills on our news pages.
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