Good guidelines and instructions, giving confidence and showing that it's not the most complicated task in the world to write a CV!  - Undergraduate attending Sian's seminar

How to complete a brilliant application form

1st April 2015

This month, I decided to blog about application forms, having come across a few shockers recently. Many job adverts now demand that you complete their standard form rather than submit a CV. This helps us recruiters to sift all applications in the same format, making it easier to see how each candidate fits our vacancy. For the less-experienced job seeker, application forms are a minefield of missed opportunities, so here are a few key tips to making sure that you make the most of each application you complete.

First, at the risk of stating the obvious, please answer the question. I've seen far too many forms where applicants have not answered the question, usually waffled and tried to squash in some irrelevant comment about past experience that doesn't match what I'm looking for. Always work from the job description as a checklist to ensure that you have given evidence of when you have used each skill mentioned in the job description. This is the correct answer to the terrifying question; 'Please outline below how you are best suited for this job'.  The recruiter is simply inviting you to sell yourself into the role and show how your past experience, skills, qualifications and talents have produced a positive result for your previous employers/customers/colleagues. Remember that experiences from studying, travel, volunteering and unpaid work experience all count here; choose the most relevant example of having demonstrated such a skill, regardless of where you practised it. Your guide is always the job description.

The most irritating recruitment experience is having to wade through loads of spelling and punctuation mistakes. There are some basic checks that you can make now that will improve your application immediately. The first item to check is accuracy in both presentation (spelling, grammar) and content (have you actually answered the question? have you typed correct facts?) This sounds astonishingly simple but is the single most frequent reason for rejecting an application form. To ensure that you are not guilty, take your time, and proof-read it at least 5 times more than you think you need to proof-read it. This means that you need to have a nearly completed form, ready for checking, way before the final deadline. So get organised and stay organised; if the form is online, draft all your answers in separate documents and only cut and paste when you have stopped altering it. If the form is on paper, photocopy several blanks and always write neatly, in block capitals or print to practise your answers. Try showing your efforts to carefully selected friends and family- only those who you are confident will give you some practical advice. Please use the spell check tool on all online applications and find a friendly proof-reader who is a better speller than you. Check that the spell checker is set to U.K., not U.S. English and be wary of common confusions such as: loose/lose, affect/effect. I've read an application where someone had typed 'weather' when she meant 'whether'. There is absolutely no excuse for incorrectly spelling the name of past employers, which I've also seen on application forms. I have heard nervous spellers try to justify it on the grounds that the target job will not require them to write, but it all builds an impression of someone who does not pay attention to detail, a common requirement for just about any job on the market. 

You'll find more help in my book; 'Nail That Job, the complete guide for the less experienced jobseeker', available here and if you have any more urgent questions about how to complete that form, then please just drop me an email, or tweet @Nailthatjob. Best of luck!

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