How to fill out a job application form online
Job application forms are common when applying to graduate jobs & this helpful guide includes everything you need to know.
If you’re looking for a job after university, it’s time to meet your new best friend, application forms. Usually the very first stage in the recruitment process, they’re your opportunity to give employers a good overview of your skills and experience, and prove just how perfect you are for the job.
It can be difficult to know exactly what you should and shouldn’t include though, and it can all be a bit daunting when you’re wanting to impress and stand out from the crowd.
However, do not fear as we are here to guide you through what you should cover in the typical sections of an application form, plus we’ve added some general hints and tips for wowing your potential employer.
Note: It is still possible that some companies will send out an application form to be filled out on paper but it’s becoming less and less common (saving the trees).
What most application forms will include
Some of the online application forms for graduate recruiters will start off with a few introductory questions to see if you should carry on (rather than wasting your time).
These questions include things such as what grade you achieved at university or what subject you studied. It’s better to know whether you will or won’t be eligible before you spend your valuable time filling out the form.
Entering your details is pretty standard for online application forms. How else are they going to contact you to tell you that you got the job?
Don’t forget to stick to the standard rules (eg. no email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org).
Nearly all application forms will ask you to enter some details about your experience and qualifications. If there’s enough space, try to enter a little more information about the modules you studied and any specific projects that you feel are relevant to the role in question.
So, if you studied a Business degree and completed a dissertation on the benefits of social media marketing, and you’re applying for a digital marketing role, this will definitely be relevant.
Avoid getting carried away, and don’t detail every certificate, A-Level and GCSE you’ve ever been awarded. It’s unlikely that your 100m swimming badge will prove anything to your employer!
Use your discretion when it comes to any bad grades. If you’ve got a Masters degree, you can probably just leave out the fact that you got an E in GCSE Geography almost ten years ago. Of course though, don’t lie! It’ll only come back to haunt you, as you might have to show proof if you’re offered the job.
List your work experience in reverse chronological order, so your most recent roles will appear first on your application. Be sure to include the name of the organisation, your job title, the location, and an overview of what you did (depending on what they ask for).
When it comes to work, achievements are much more relevant than tasks. So, if you were a waiter in a cafe, it goes without saying that you served food, took payments and answered customer queries.
Go a step further and show how invaluable you were to the business. You might mention something like ‘implementing a new system during busy hours that resulted in a 40% increase in sales’.
Skills, abilities & knowledge
Once the employer has a better idea about you in general they may want to get a better idea of how you will react and fit into more specific situations within the company or sector. This part is the chance to really show off your skills & abilities.
The questions in this section are likely to be about specific situations or experience such as “what would you do if you were writing a proposal and were going to run over the deadline?” and “tell us about a previous time when you displayed leadership.”
It’s important that you research the company in detail before you fill out the application form so that you can understand any company or industry specific questions.
This part of the online application form is a great opportunity to use a wide range of examples to back up your answer. You should look to include examples from previous work roles, education experiences and social situations. Use your examples to show how it relates to the problem and then what the outcome was.
As a final point, make sure you are descriptive and precise with your examples and Instead of using words like “good” use “effective.”
Link any extracurricular activities to the job in question, and think about how they demonstrate your skills.
Generic statements such as ‘I enjoy reading and playing football’ aren’t going to make you stand out from the crowd. But if you coached the football team after a season of lost games and this lead to the team winning an award, this shows great leadership skills that could be relevant to a managerial role.
You’ll usually be asked for two references, so include one from work and one from university – your personal tutor is usually the most obvious choice.
Always ask for your referees’ permission before giving out their details, and let them know about your career aspirations and the type of roles that you’re applying for. It’s common courtesy to keep them updated, too.
On your application, include a name, address, telephone number and email address for each reference.
Profiling & Competency?
From time to time an online job application will include profiling questions and/or competency tests. Roles such as accountancy can include numerical test for example.
There are no right or wrong answers to a profiling test so it’s best to try and answer as honestly as possible. If you are a natural leader then it’s likely that the answers you give to the profiling questions will show this.
Competency questions tend to be very specific to the role you are applying for so will differ for each industry.
Make sure you know enough about industry specifics to answer these questions.
CV & Covering Letter?
Be careful not to copy and paste or rewrite sections of your CV if you have to send it in with your application too!
Online application form hints and tips
Get your application in as soon as possible
It’s not unheard of for employers to close the application process early if they’re inundated with responses, so get yours in as soon as you can. Of course this doesn’t mean rushing it, but don’t leave it until the last minute either!
Follow the instructions very carefully
No matter how many applications you’ve completed recently, don’t just assume that you know what you need to do and neglect to read the guidelines. If it’s a paper application, you might be asked to complete it in block capitals or blue ink.
For online forms, there could be a specific way that it needs to be submitted. Treat every application you complete as an individual in its own right.
Check your spelling and grammar
A lot of online application forms don’t have a grammar and spell check and any silly spelling mistakes or typing errors are pretty much guaranteed to get your application binned immediately.
Always double check everything, and if it’s an online form, make use of your computer’s spelling and grammar checker in word. If this area really isn’t your forte, ask a friend to look over your form for you before you send it off.
Make the information easy to follow
Recruiters are very busy people, and they won’t have the time to sift through badly organised information to see if there’s anything good in there. Break up long paragraphs with bullet points if you can, and get straight to the point!
Avoid using any jargon or acronyms that aren’t used by the general public (apart from in any competency questions), and keep your points succinct and concise.
Save as you go
If the application form allows you to save each section as you progress make sure you do it. There’s nothing worse than spending hours filling out all of your important information and then losing it due to a power cut.
A good idea is to copy and paste your answers into a word document so that you can use them for other applications too.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be best placed for making it through to the next round of the recruitment process. And then, you have the dreaded interviews to look forward to! Remember that it’s all experience, and even if you don’t get invited for an interview, you’ll have much more knowledge under your belt for next time.
Are you currently completing application forms? How are you finding them so far?