Application forms appear in a variety of formats, and it is not enough just to copy your CV into the form.
Types of application forms
Here are some of the most common types of application forms you may be required to complete:
- Competency based
- Personal statement
Competency based applications are the most common, and are typically found in graduate recruitment. Their purpose is to assess the skills you have and whether they fit with the role you are applying for. They often include a personal statement element.
Before you start your application: research
Do not just start writing your answers to the questions you see on an application form. This is an easy mistake to make and an employer may reject your application. Do your research.
Identify which skills, interest and experiences the employer is looking for. The best place for this is the job description or person specification.
- Read the organisation's website, social media profiles and key literature. Make sure you understand the company's market, goals, mission statement, etc.
- Speak with people doing a similar job role or anyone you know working at the company. Use
LinkedIn to find employees of the organisation, or use Glassdoor to read reviews employees have left.
- Research the news, trends, competitors, history and opportunities for the organisation and its sector. Use sites such as
- Also read career and industry specific websites.
This might seem like a lot of work when you could just fill in the application, but this is the best way to be prepared and give yourself a chance at getting an interview.
How complete application questions: use STAR
For competency based applications, focus your answers around your skills and experiences and relate these directly to the criteria given in the job description. To assist you and to make the most of space, use the STAR technique:
S: Situation – what was the situation? Give a brief outline of the challenge that faced you.
T: Task – What did you have to achieve? Describe the goal you needed to get to, whether individually or as part of a team.
A: Action – What skills and processes were used? What was your input into the team and how did you contribute to the effort? Include details of any systems or processes that are particularly relevant to the role you are applying for.
R: Result – What was the outcome? What did you learn from the situation? Explain why the outcome was positive and how that helped your team or developed the situation. If the outcome was not positive, focus on what you learned from the experience and what you would do to make sure a similar situation is successful in the future.
Top application tips
- Tailor your application to each employer.
- Give yourself plenty of time to write your application.
- Use power verbs, such as 'transformed', 'delivered', 'achieved' and 'inspired';
- Choose descriptive words like 'effective', 'consistent', 'determined' and 'adaptable';
- Focus on the questions asked rather than waffling or being too vague;
- Select appropriate examples of your achievements from past experience;
- Demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for the role.
Further information and support
We are here to help if you get stuck or need a member of staff to provide some impartial feedback. Here's how you can get support from us:
Book an appointment with a member of staff. They can review your application and make suggestions on how to improve it.
Ask a question on CareerHub. Ideal for students and graduates who cannot get to an appointment in person. We aim to respond within three working days.