Application forms

Lots of employers prefer job application forms to CVs – but filling them in can be a pest. Use our tips to make the whole process quicker and easier.

Some employers prefer application forms to CVs. Large employers like councils, who are taking on a lot of staff in one go, use them to make sorting through candidates easier.

The good thing about job application forms is that they tell you exactly what the employer wants. Unlike a CV, you’ve got set questions to answer. This can make it easier to match your skills to the job. 

The downside is trying to describe your life in a series of small boxes. If you’re filling in a lot of job applications this can start to feel repetitive. And it’s time consuming.

But don’t be put off. Our tips and application form example questions will help you through.

Five things to do before you start

A little preparation helps make filling in your job application easier. To make a start:

Research the company

Make sure you understand what they do. This means you can talk about them – and how you'll fit in – in your answers. Our guide to researching an employer could help.

Get your information ready

That’s qualifications, skills, strengths and experience – you can use your CV to help fill it out. You can also save this info in your My World of Work account so that you always have it handy.

Read the form

Check through the instructions carefully and identify which sections you need to fill in.

Practise

Complete as many dummy forms as you want, or write the answers in a word doc. Make sure you’ve got it right before you fill in the final version. You can also have a look at application form examples. 

Read the job description

Pick out key skills and desirable qualities. Think about what you can say about yourself to match each one. What examples could you give?

How to answer the tricky parts on a job application

Lots of the boxes on an application form will be simple enough – like your name and address. It’s the more in-depth questions which are a little trickier. But, they’re also your chance to show an employer why you would be great at the job.

We’ve picked a few typical questions to explore how you can approach them.

Describe a time when you worked in a team  

This is an example of a competency-based question. The employer wants to find out whether you have the right skills for the job. You need to use an example. You could use work, study, volunteering, work experience or a hobby.

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

In this question, the employer wants 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.

An example answer: 

  • ‘In my part-time job, we had three days to complete our annual stock check.’ (Situation). 
  • ‘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.’ (Task). 
  • ‘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.’ (Action). 
  • ‘By working together and being flexible, we completed the whole task on time. In fact we were the first department to finish.’ (Result).

What key skills and qualities do you have that are relevant to 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.  

Online applications

Lots of employers now ask for you to fill in an online job application form, instead of sending one in. These pointers might help:

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

One trick 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.