When we say Job application forms, we’re not talking about the simple 1-2 page basic personal details, education and work history one. We mean the 10+ pager, long answer style form that instills dread in most people. But don’t worry, here are our tips on how to fill in job application form effectively and bag the all-important interview!
1. First things first – leave enough time!
Allow at least one working day for:
a) Time to complete the form and give your detailed answers. If you haven’t updated your CV or prepared for a job interview in a while and are starting from scratch, you can expect to spend 6 hours (or more!) on completing the form:
- 2-3 hours on competency questions – this is in total – there can usually be up to 4 of these to answer
- 2 hours on work experience and education
- 1 hour on a long answer question (one page) such as tell me about yourself or why are you suitable for this role?
b) Enough time to submit the form to allow time for computer malfunction, dodgy Wi-Fi connection etc! Don’t leave it 5 minutes before the deadline to try to upload. A two-hour buffer should be good; this gives you enough time to get to a friend or the library to use an alternative computer if necessary! The earlier you are ready, the better, some people like to submit a day or two early or leave time to sleep on it before submitting.
2. Prepare your answers
If the application form allows, view each question first so that you can prepare a draft of your answers. This way you can choose which evidence you want to use for each question. Some online forms do not allow you to view the next question until you have submitted the current one, so if it is not possible to view the questions you can expect the general layout to be:
- a) Personal details
- b) Work history
- c) Education and training
- d) Competency – scenario/evidence based questions based on the job and person specification. We recommend using the STAR technique (another blog post on that coming soon!).
- e) In addition, sometimes there can be a 1-2 page description on why you would be suitable for the role. Don’t be afraid of repetition here, as you will need to mention a summary of work experience education and key competencies in order to answer this section. In terms of readability it should make sense when read independently from the information on your form. However, that doesn’t mean copy and paste from previous sections of the form! This question can be phrased in a number of ways including Tell us about yourself or why should we give you this job? >Make sure any information given on the application form matches that on your CV. You don’t want there to be discrepancies between the two, they should tell the same story.
3. Performance indicators
Sometimes in the competencies section, employers are also giving more detailed bullet points referring to performance indicators under each competency. For example, rather than simply a section on leadership skills, this section may be broken down into providing evidence that you can meet certain performance indicators within this competency. This could be performance managing teams, encouraging teams to achieve targets and managing low team morale.
Try to give examples of all performance indicators mentioned. If the question doesn’t have performance indicators listed, you can look at the person specification and/or job description to help you to form your answer for each competency question.
4. Review your answers
Review your answers and check for spelling and grammar – copy and paste into a Word document if the application form doesn’t have this facility. Get a friend (or Hilt!) to review your answers for content and readability. You want to make sure the reader understands your points and that they are being put forward in the best way possible to someone who doesn’t know you or your experience.
5. Save a draft
In any way possible – PDF, copy and paste into Word or even a print screen if you have to! You will be quizzed on your application in the interview and you will want to be familiar with what you submitted. Also, you can use this for future applications so that next time it won’t be as time consuming. Make the most of the hard work you have done!
Applications may seem like a mammoth task but we’ll share a secret – doing the legwork now will fast forward your interview preparation. You were going to have to prepare this information at some point during the job search whether it is updating your CV or prepping for interview questions – filing in the dreaded job application form has saved you some of that work!