Application forms

Many jobs – particularly on graduate recruitment schemes – require you to complete an application form. Some are online application forms; others require you to download, fill out and then post or email the form to the recruitment team.

Here are our top tips on how to complete an application form effectively to maximise your chances of being invited for interview:

  • Make, or save, several copies of the application form so that you can draft a rough copy first. Keep the final version to refer to for the interview.
  • Read it through and work out exactly what evidence the employer is asking for in each part.
  • Look at the person specification for the job and pick out the essential and desirable criteria. Provide evidence for all criteria.
  • Ask yourself; what evidence can I put down to demonstrate that I am competent in this?
  • Don't just focus on your degree. All graduates have degrees. What else do you have to offer?
  • Prove yourself a more rounded individual by drawing on your experiences outside of academia too eg community work, sport, faith groups, music and positions of responsibility you've held.

There are some things to keep in mind for online applications in particular:

  • Online applications should be completed following the same principles and with the same care as paper based ones.
  • Never try to complete and send an application in one sitting.
  • Ensure you are in a quiet place where you can think clearly and take your time.
  • Equip yourself with your education and school history, company brochures and CV. This will save time.
  • Download the application form if possible or, if you can't, write down all the questions first.
  • Compose your answers separately on a word processing document. Finally, cut and paste as appropriate.
  • Keep your language formal, not casual email style.
  • Save your application regularly.
  • Spell check and print off to proofread, spelling errors are more common in typed text. Ideally, get someone else to proofread it for you.
  • Keep a copy for interview preparation.

Example application questions and answers

Most questions on application forms encourage you to provide specific evidence of competencies, usually outlined on the person specification. It's not enough simply to mention what skills you have but when and how you put them into practice.Try using the STAR model:

S Situation Briefly outline the scenario, date, place
T Task What were you asked to do? Describe what you had to do
A Action What specific actions did you take to overcome the difficulty?
R Results What were the quantitative results and what did you learn?

Download example question and answers using the STAR model.


Cover letters

Your cover letter and CV are likely to be the first contact you have with an employer and it is estimated that you have a little more than 30 seconds to make a good impression.