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Monday, 19 September 2011

Application forms part one: Easier than writing a CV?

What does September mean to you? A new term and a week or two of fresher’s parties? Fond memories of returning to uni when you were still a student? Or maybe it brings the excitement of moving on to the next stage in your career.

Whatever you are planning this Autumn, if it involves looking for a job (of any sort) then it may well mean filling in an application form. Yippee, that means you don’t need to bother updating your CV, that’s good news, right?

Actually it may not be the good news you first think. The advantages of an application form are:

But what about the downside:

  • Everyone becomes standardised by completing the same form, so you have less chance to stand out from the crowd.
  • You have to answer the questions asked on the form, even if that means talking about something you’d rather not.
  • The order of the questions is dictated by the form – whereas on your CV you can change the order around to suit you and your personal strengths.
  • You can’t always see all of the questions on an online application form, so planning your answers is not always easy.

If you are faced with completing any sort of application form, here are a few tips to help you:

1. Take a copy of the blank form and keep the original safely for the final version. If it’s an online form, see if you can copy all of the headings into a Word document so you can work on the form in your own time before committing your answers.
2. Check the instructions carefully. If it says ‘complete with a black pen’ don’t use a blue one!!
3. Make sure you get the details right, especially if you are copying and pasting from a previous form – you don’t want to mention XYZ Ltd if this is an application form for ABC Ltd!
4. Write neatly or word process, depending on what the instructions say. Black ink is better than blue.
5. Answer all questions. If you think a question is definitely not relevant to you mark the section N/A. Use with caution!
6. Think about why a question is being asked before you leap right in and start answering.
7. Draft your answers first so you can be sure they will fit in the space provided or be the required number of words.
8. Write succinctly and formally, eg. write ‘did not’ rather than ‘didn’t’.
9. Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation. Yes, yes, we go on about that a lot, but it’s really important! Don’t trust a spell checker and always ask someone else to proofread your answers as an extra check.
10. Copy your draft answers on to the real form. Check again that you have followed all the instructions. If you are including any extra sheets they should be clearly marked with your name, job title and reference number.

Remember to keep a copy of the completed form, so if (when?!) the next stage is an interview, you can remember what you said!

Coming soon – Application forms part two: Preparation, research and answering long questions.

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