Application forms

Lots of employers prefer job application forms to CVs – but filling them in can be difficult. We've got tips to help you complete them with confidence.

Lots of employers prefer job application forms to CVs – but filling them in can be difficult. We've got tips to help you complete them with confidence.

Some employers prefer application forms to CVs, especially if they're recruiting for lots of staff at one time. 

The good thing about that? Forms tell you exactly what the employers wants. Unlike a CV, you'll have specific questions to answer - which can make it easier to match your skills to the job.

The downside? You're trying to describe your life in the small space of an answer-box, and it might be difficult to make some bits fit. 

If you're filling in lots of job applications, this can start to get repetitive and time-consuming. But don’t be put off.

We've pulled together tips, tricks and example questions to help you get through it. 

How do I answer competency-based questions?

Competency-based questions require detail and thought, so it's best to give yourself plenty of time to answer them. 

If they ask something like:

'Describe a time when you worked in a team'

It's a competency-based question. The employer wants to find out whether you have the right skills for the job, so you'll need to use an example. Work, study, volunteering, work experience or hobbies are all experiences you could use. 

To answer, use the STAR technique. Describe a Situation, the Tasks you needed to do, the Actions you took and the Results you achieved.

They want to know that you can get along with others in a team. Show that you make an effort to pull your weight, and you communicate well.

Here's an example answer: 

Situation: ‘In my part-time job, we had three days to complete our annual stock check.’

Task: ‘We had to count every item of stock accurately, ensuring we stayed on schedule. I was in charge and worked with two colleagues in my department.’ 

Action: ‘I assigned different sections of the stock to each person, along with a target time. Some sections went more quickly so we reorganised our time to help each other out.’ 

Result: ‘By working together and being flexible, we completed the whole task on time. In fact we were the first department to finish.’

How do I answer tricky questions?

Lots of sections on the application form will be simple enough, like filling out your name or address.

More in-depth questions can be a bit harder. However, they're your chance to show the employer why you'd be great at the job.  

Here's are a couple of examples to give you an idea of what to expect.

What key skills and qualities do you have that would be relevant this job?  

This is where your preparation comes in. Compare the skills you have to the ones mentioned on the job description. The skills section in your account can help you identify some of your skills. Try not to simply list them. Instead, give examples of times you've used those skills. Depending on how much space you have, provide a bit of detail.

Why do you want to work for this company?

Again, your research is important here. It’s a chance to talk about the employer, the role, and what it is that excites you about it. Is this a chance for you to gain new experience or work in an area you’re fascinated by? Let them know.

Provide a statement in support of your application

This section is often the longest section of an application form. It’s where you can pick out some of the most relevant parts from the information you’ve already entered. Provide more examples of how you fit into the job description.

Don’t just repeat what you’ve said above. Instead, go into more detail about things which link to the job description.

If you’re not sure what to include, try the strengths quiz in your account. It will help you think about what you’re best at.  

How do I fill out online applications?

Digital applications are becoming increasingly popular. 

But they come with their own set of issues. Tackle them with these tips. 

Check if there’s a time-out

Often, online applications will log you out automatically if you don’t do something for a while. This means you’ll lose the work you’ve been doing. Make sure you save regularly.

Copy the questions into a Word document

Write out your answers offline, then copy and paste them in. You can edit them as much as you like. Plus, you’ll have a saved version to refer to if you get asked to an interview.

Understand the buttons

It sounds simple, but you don’t want to accidentally submit a half-finished application.


Go back through the form once you've finished, and make sure you've answered everything you need to.

And a cheat to make it easier next time...

Save a copy of your application form – or the text from it, if it’s online. This means the next time you have to fill one in, you have some answers ready to tweak for the next job.