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General Application Advice

Please note: The following is general advice and does not relate to specific application forms on this site.

Application Forms

It is not possible to produce a good application without giving yourself the time to do so. You should read through the form and any accompanying literature before you draft your answers: 

  • Check your dates and details for the factual section
  • Consider which of your achievements / experiences you can use
  • Draw examples from your social life as well as your academic and work experience
  • Think about what the employer is looking for and what you need to show
  • Remember that this is an opportunity to sell yourself
  • If applying online, ensure you are using the most up-to-date version of your web browser. This will ensure compatibility with the online application form.

Tailor your application

You need to be sure that you are applying to the right jobs / companies, or you will find it difficult to complete the application form: 

  • Have you researched both the job and the company
  • Have you a realistic idea of what the job involves
  • Do you know what the employer is looking for
  • Could you do the job / fit in to the organisation?

Practice

  • List the skills that the company requires and then list the evidence you will use to match them
  • Try out different answers. It may take several attempts to get balanced answers which fit in the spaces provided
  • Use positive language and write clearly and concisely
  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Get someone to check what you have written.

Watch the detail

  • Follow any instructions - these often appear at the top of the application form
  • Pay attention to the layout
  • Check with your referees before putting their names down. You may also want to let them know which jobs you have applied for and give them a copy of your application
  • Make sure that you have answered all the questions and addressed all the criteria
  • Keep a copy of the completed form - you will need to refer to it if you go for interview.

Covering Letters

This is a formal letter to introduce your Application Form or CV to the right person within an organisation. It is the first thing any employer will read and should create a positive impression. A good cover letter will encourage them to take your application seriously.

General Rules:

  • Address your letter to a specific person
  • Make it clear, concise and easy to read
  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Use a positive tone and not words and phrases like 'I have only...', 'just'
  • Highlight your key strengths and suitability for the job
  • Explain why the job and organisation interest you, and what you have to offer
  • End on a positive note, e.g. 'looking forward to meeting you'.

Posting Covering Letters:

  • Keep it to one side of A4, on good quality paper
  • Put your personal details at the top

Emailing Covering Letters:

  • Don't cc lots of people
  • Use the subject line to give the vacancy title / reference number
  • Put your personal details at the end in your email signature
  • Don't be too casual or over familiar
  • If including attachments, use your own name in the file name e.g. johnsmithCV.doc.

Online applications

Many employers prefer using online forms with some companies no longer accepting printed applications. In fact, most companies today will expect you to be computer literate. Applying online serves to demonstrate your skills.

Advantages:

  • It's fast, including the time it takes for an employer to acknowledge your application
  • It's simpler and uses less paper
  • It can be more objective; no assumptions can be made based on your handwriting

Disadvantages: 

  • You may be more tempted to do a fast, sloppy application
  • Because the text boxes expand to fit the text, you might get drawn into longer more wordy writing.

Before you start

As with a printed Application Form, the content is vital. You need to think about the questions and prepare your responses. You should practice your answers in a separate document or on paper. While the text boxes may expand, you should still try and produce concise responses. Wherever possible, try to keep your text within the visible area of the text box.

After you've completed the form

Check your spelling and grammar, do not rely on spellchecks as they are not infallible. Before sending the form, read it through, making sure you have completed all sections. Ensure you have access to a copy to consult before your interview.