Tips for completing an application form
Many organisations require candidates to complete application forms for their roles. We know that it can be daunting to complete such a lengthy document and you might not know where to start, or you might need some pointers to make your application forms have more impact.
The TPT employment team have a wealth of experience helping people to complete application forms and have been on the other side of the table, short listing candidates for roles. So we know what makes a good application form and this guide will provide you with the tools to make sure your application form concisely and clearly brings to light your experiences within the context of the role you are going to apply for.
What to expect on an application form?
Application forms are widely used by a whole range of organisations from small businesses to large international corporations and span every area from the private to the charity sector.
The layout of an application form will differ from organisation to organisation but the information they ask for is largely the same.
There will be organisations that will ask for additional supporting information such as a CV or cover letter. It is really important that you do not cut corners with your application form when this is asked for, you cannot rely on the recruiter looking at your CV if you haven’t fully completed the application form.
We will go through each section of an application form and explain what the hiring organisation are looking for.
This is usually asking you to provide contact details and confirming your right to work in the UK. It is important to complete this section and provide contact details that are up to date and accurate as they will use these to offer you an interview.
It is important to note that at this stage you should not be asked to provide any information relating to your age, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. These are protected characteristics and no recruiter should be gathering this information as part of personal information – however it is fine for an organisation to ask you to complete an equal opportunities form, but we will cover this in more depth later.
This section is looking for you to list your education, along with your qualifications and grades. If you have undertaken any courses which you feel are related to the position you are applying for, or if you are a member of a professional body, you should also list these in this section.
Always remember to list your qualifications in order, putting the most recent first.
This section will ask you to list your previous work history, this can be both paid and unpaid. If you are currently volunteering or have volunteered in the past, then you should list this here.
You will be required to list the duties and responsibilities relating to your roles, so make sure you have four or five concise bullet points that you can use to summarise your previous roles, always try and make these as relevant as possible to the role you are applying for.
Always remember to list your work history in order, putting the most recent first.
Personal or supporting statement
This section is the most important part of the application form, so important we are going to dedicate a separate section of this guide to letting you know how to complete it like a ‘pro’. It is the section which the employer is going to look at to see if you have the skills and experience, they are looking for. It is the trickiest part of the form and the most time consuming but get this right and you will be getting an interview with the recruiter for sure.
You will be asked to provide references as part of your application form, it is usually two, but we have seen examples of employers asking for three. It is always best to ask the permission of your referee to use their details in advance, it is also good practice to include a link to their linked in profile where possible.
As we mentioned earlier, you should not be asked to provide information on your age, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability, unless it is as part of an equal opportunities section. This section is completely confidential and will be kept separate from the rest of your application form, it is used by organisations to monitor their commitment to equality and diversity. The human resources department will also likely use this section to identify candidates who may require reasonable adjustments to be made for interviews.
How to write the best personal statement
As we mentioned earlier, the personal statement is the longest section which you will be required to fill out and it is also the most important. It is not a case of copying and pasting your CV or cover letter, it is a concise piece of writing which is going to address all the points which the employer has highlighted in the person specification.
It is also really important to outline why you are applying for the role, so researching the company is going to be essential before you start to complete this section.
The person specification is normally included as part of any job description, it will list essential and desirable criteria. It will sometimes also highlight how the employer is going to assess each point, whether that be application form, interview or test.
It is important to address each point individually as part of your personal statement, explaining how you meet the criteria they are looking for. The recruiter will be scoring each persons personal statement against that criteria so if you do not address one of the points you will not get a score for that section, which is going to reduce the chance of you getting an interview.
You should do this by using the same language as is included in the person specification, you can do this by using headings or changing the sentence structure slightly. Then a recruiter can quickly look at your personal statement and mark each section against their own copy of the person specification, you will be making their job easier and it will make your application form stand out from all the others.
How to structure your personal statement
Firstly, it should have an introduction. This should clearly outline your interest and motivation and why you are applying for the job. Employers want to see that you have gone the extra mile and taken time to find out who they are. Having a killer introduction does exactly that and is going to get the interest of any employer who is reading it.
The next part is the main body. Here you will address the points in the person specification, you should address each point individually, making sure that you use an example for each one. We will show you how to do this in the “star method” section.
Finally, you should conclude with a brief paragraph. This should reiterate the key points within your application, emphasising why you are the right person for the job.
How long should it be
There is no right or wrong answer to this. some application forms will suggest a word limit but not always. We would suggest aiming for between 250 – 300 words per point if you can. Remember the best applications are those that clearly and concisely bring to light your experiences and make it relevant to the job you are applying for.
Using the STAR model
In the TPT employment team we absolutely love the STAR model, you will see we use it a lot from interviews to application forms. The reason for this is, we know it works!
Below we will describe the STAR model and how to use it.
What is the STAR model?
The STAR model provides a framework to enable you to highlight your skills and experience in response to those essential and desirable criteria which you need to address as part of your personal statement.
So, for each criterion use the below structure:
S is for Situation: Open with a brief description and explain the situation that you were in.
T stands for Task: This is still the introduction but gives context to the reader, it explains your role and what you had to do; what was expected of YOU.
A is for Action: Here you describe the specific actions that you took to complete the task. This will be the most substantial part of your answer (around 50-70%) and you need to include:
- What you did.
- Why you did it.
- How you did it.
- What skills you used.
These should highlight desirable traits, but you don’t always have to state them if they are obvious in the example you give, just make sure they match what the employers are looking for.
R is for Result: You must close with the result of your efforts and always quantify the result wherever you can. Consider what happened as a result of the actions you took? What you would do differently or improve? What impact the result had overall on the team, or on the company.
You can find plenty of examples online demonstrating how to use the STAR model. We would recommend you look and then use this model for every application form that you do from now on.
Get in contact with us
If you need help completing an application form or want a member of the employment team to proof read an application form before you submit it, please send us an email attaching the job description and/or person specification, along with a copy of your application. firstname.lastname@example.org
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