August 4, 2015, by Laura Estrop

The best and worst things to do when filling out a job application

By Laura Estrop, Social Media Officer

If you’re searching for jobs this summer, more likely than not you will have been faced with a job application form. For anyone who has completed more than two, you will be aware of how repetitive and time consuming they can be; leading to sloppy and easily avoidable mistakes that could be costing you an interview. 

Today, we aim to rectify this. Here are the top five best and worst things you should do when filling out an application form. Follow this advice and you’ll set yourself on your way to that interview.

Top five things you should do:

  1. Research the company

I know you’ve probably heard it before, but it is crucial that you make time to research the company you’re applying to. Let me explain, if you’re applying for a job within an environmental charity and you talk about how your long-term career goal is to work for a major oil company, you have essentially told the employer that you don’t agree with their values. Knowing the values and priorities of the company, will show the employer that you understand what they are trying to achieve, but it will also give you a better sense of whether or not you’re right for the role.

*Top tip* If during your research you find something interesting about the company, mention it in your answers; if it’s appropriate to do so! This will show that you are genuinely interested in the company and its direction.

  1. Read and answer each question carefully

If you’ve been asked to write about your experience of working in a team and you start talking about how your Russian literature course made you choose this role, you have completely missed the point of the question. Make sure you fully understand what is being asked before you start writing your response.

*Top tip* Print out the application form and job description and read it fully to see what examples/experiences you’re being asked to talk about. Make notes if you have to! The more time you spend constructing your answers, the more concise and appropriate they will be.

  1. Keep it short and sweet

Even if you have a lot to say about the time you demonstrated your communication skills, an employer doesn’t have time to read a 1,000 word essay on it. Make sure you try and limit how much you write for each answer. Not only will it make it easier on the reader, it will also demonstrate your ability to condense a lot of information into a small space; a key skill that employers value. Some application forms will specify a word limit for each answer, sometimes as short as 250-300 words.

*Top tip* Keep your answers to 400words max.

  1. Give yourself time

Starting the application early gives you the maximum amount of time to think about and create the perfect answers. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so you may as well put your best self forward!

*Top tip* Make a note in your phone or diary of the application deadline date, this way you won’t forget to submit it.

  1. Enthusiasm!

When applying for a job, you may think that the best approach is to keep your answers and covering letter as formal as possible. Well, the likelihood is that everyone else will be doing the same thing. You shouldn’t be afraid to bring your personality into it, if you’re an upbeat person, make sure you keep your answers upbeat. Not only will it show the employer who you on a more personal level, it will also make you stand out in a good way.

*Top tip* Along with being enthusiastic, don’t forget to include in the form somewhere why you actually want the job.

As always, with the good, comes the bad. Here at the top five things you should avoid when filling out an application form:

  1. Copy and pasting your answers from a previous application

Although you may have answered the question 20 times before, copying and pasting should never be an option. If you do, you run the risk of accidently mentioning a different company or a different job role. Even if you end up saying the same things, writing your answers again will make you better at communicating your experiences, something that will be helpful if you’re invited to an interview.

  1. Embellishing the truth

If you don’t have any experience within the field you’re applying to, be honest! If you exaggerate and make it to the interview stage, chances are you’ll get caught out.

*Top tip* Don’t forget that experience doesn’t have to come from paid work; you can also include examples from your course, volunteering or even from a university society.

  1. Forgetting to proof-read

You wouldn’t forget to proof-read your dissertation… well I hope you wouldn’t… so you shouldn’t forget to proof-read your application. Proof-reading can help you avoid any little silly mistakes that a spell checker may not pick up. These include mistakes such as writing ‘form’ instead of ‘from’ or ‘there’ instead of ‘their’. Don’t let something as small as grammar hinder your prospects!

  1. Sending your application from the wrong email

I’m sure you fondly remember your first email address; created when it was cooler to use a funky nickname then your actual name. But even if you have a professional email account, it is easier than you think to accidently send something from that email address, especially if you’re on your iPad. I would recommend double checking which account you’re sending the form from before you accidently send it from your “juicylucy@…” email account.

*Top tip* When sending out applications, you should always use a professional email address; the best ones are comprised simply of your name. E.g. ‘lucy_smith@…’

  1. Leaving it to the last minute

Much like forgetting to proof-read, leaving an application form until the last minute really isn’t the best idea. Even if you have all of the required experience, if you send the employer an obviously rushed application then you are sending a negative impression of yourself. Also, leave it to the last minute and you risk repeating yourself, spelling errors or just going off topic. If you think you’ve got what it takes to get the job then do yourself a favour and take the time to complete the application form properly.

If you need help completing a job application form, have a look at the advice we have on our website. You can always book an appointment with one of our staff if you need any additional help.

Photo: GotCredit – Application

Posted in Applying For Jobs