Helping with application forms

Reading time: About 4 mins

Application forms are often the first hurdle in the journey to landing a job.

Employers may use application forms instead of CVs because they can ask tailored questions and have more control over the information they get back. 

For many young people, the task of selling themselves and showing they deserve an interview can be difficult – especially without much experience.

Here’s how you can guide your child when they’re doing an application .

1. Look closely at the job specification

Careers adviser Alison Womersley says, ‘All employers are looking for the candidate to demonstrate that they are right for the job, and they should complete the application form with reference to the job description and personal specification.

‘This will be a mixture of personal qualities and core skills, but very importantly the competencies required for the job. 

‘Parents should be encouraging their children to read the job description very carefully, and to make sure they read all aspects, not just a summary.’ 

2. Don’t write it for them!

Shona Honeyman deals with applications to the Glasgow Guarantee.

She says: 'In general our advice to parents and carers is to help the young person research the job, the company and the sector but don’t write the application for them.

'Our experience is that young people will be a bit more quirky if they use their own words and this makes their application stand out – however help with grammar and spelling is always appreciated!’

A couple of examples of forms which stood out to Shona are:

  • 'I’ve always wanted to be a mechanic – my dad’s a petrol head - so what else was I going to want to be, I’ve tinkered with cars since I was wee.'
  • 'I’m responsible and trustworthy and I don’t tell lies – if I said I went to school every day or on time that would be a lie – but I’ve grown up now and I really want to work so I’d definitely be there on time.'

3.  Be positive but be honest 

The application form is a chance for them to sell themselves. But remember that if their application is successful your child will probably have to do an interview.

Shona Honeyman says, 'The young person, if they get to interview stage, has to live up to the application form the employer has selected them from – don’t set them up to fail.'

Here are some sample questions and advice on how you can help your child answer them, from the Glasgow Guarantee.

Why are you interested in this job/apprenticeship?

You can help your child to research the company and the role and discuss why they are interested in the job - did they study any subject that are relevant?

What key skills and qualities do you have which are relevant to this job/apprenticeship? 

You can help your child to think about skills gained from previous work experience, extra-curricular activities and the subjects they studied at school.

Look at the job description and think about what is needed for the job. 

Any other information you may wish to be considered in your application

You can help your child think about their hobbies and interests, are they a member of any clubs or do they do any volunteering?

Their S3 profile might also be useful to help them think about what they’ve achieved. 

4. Read it like an employer

It's helpful for you to take on the role of proof reader and look at the application form with an employer’s perspective. 

Alison suggests doing these checks before your child sends in their form:

  • Read through the application form and take in all the instructions; don’t send a CV unless asked
  • Complete all sections, or put in N/A if not applicable
  • Correct spelling and grammar: use ‘I’ not ‘i’
  • Be positive. Don’t use language like ‘Although I have never done any sales work, I’m sure I could’. It's not about what they haven't done, it's about what experience they do have
  • Make sure it includes voluntary work and any skills and experience gained from different school projects
  • Review the dates and don’t leave any time gaps in education and employment history

Remember, application forms are usually online now rather than on paper so you might need to set aside time to sit at a computer with them.

Your child may need to create an account on the application website. They can usually save each section as they go along and can review the application before sending it in.

5. And finally…

Make sure they get it in on time!