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Application Forms | The Careers Service Application Forms – Oxford University Careers Service
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Completing application forms

Most graduate recruiters use online application forms, although many can offer paper versions of the form (on request). The key advice given below applies to both types of application form. In all cases, careful targeting is far more likely to lead to success than sending off numerous applications that are not tailored to each role and organisation. It’s very important to research the role, organisation and sector before completing the form, in order to demonstrate your suitability for the role. Allowing your motivation and interest to come through can make you stand out as a knowledgeable and attractive applicant.

Tips for online forms

  • You can type directly into most application forms – often they will have a specific word limit for each question.
  • Draft anything you write in a Word document, as your online connection to the application form may “time-out” or close without giving you notification. This will allow you to copy and paste your answers into the form when you are satisfied. Writing your application in Word also means you have the advantage of using the spelling and grammar checks and can review what you have written at a later date, if you are invited to interview.
  • Don’t submit the form until you are completely happy with it and the process that may follow. For example, you may be expected to complete an online test shortly after submitting the form.
  • Avoid copying and pasting directly from applications in other webpages – some organisations have software to detect when this has been done.
  • If you are asked to include a CV and/or Cover Letter in addition to answering the questions on the form – ensure that you do so

General points

  • Be accurate, and plan how to use the space available
  • Keep to the word or character limit
  • Check the form carefully, and ask someone else to review it
  • Recruiters often communicate by email. Ensure that your email address and other contact details are correct, and check your mail regularly!
Different parts of the form

Forms will typically have the following sections for you to fill in:

  • Personal details
  • Examination results
  • Employment and experience
  • Questions to answer
  • Referees – usually two referees are required. One is likely to be your Oxford tutor; the other might be a person you did relevant work experience with, or who knows you well personally.
  • ‘Recruitment monitoring’ – equality, diversity and medical information, which is not used for selection purposes; although they may use the space to ask if you require any reasonable adjustments for interview if you disclose a disability.

A note on ‘disclosing’ a disability

Legally, you don’t have to “disclose” (inform the employer beforehand) a disability on an application form (but failure to do so on a medical form – once you have accepted the job – could be considered a breach of contract). It’s very important to remember that employers are keen to ensure that all applicants are given an equal and fair opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. As such the disclosure of a disability could give you access to reasonable adjustments for the application and interview process.

Reasonable adjustments can include (but are not limited to), extra time to complete online tests, extra-time between interviews, or support in getting to the interview. Employers are also able to make adjustments tailored to your specific needs – if you do disclose a disability, the firm will likely consult with you giving you the chance to discuss the adjustments that your require. If you think you may require adjustments to complete these, make sure that you understand all aspects (including timelines) of the application and recruitment process before submitting your application.

N.B Some employers require you to complete online exercises or tests shortly after you have submitted your application (typically within 5-7 days). Ideally contact employers either before submitting your application or immediately afterwards to let them know if you need any adjustments.  This will ensure that you are offered the requisite adjustments for the on-line tests/exercises, as once completed, most will not retroactively take your disability into consideration when assessing your performance.

It may also be worth looking for employers who have been awarded “two ticks”  –  for making a commitment to employ, keep and develop the abilities of disabled staff. One of the (five) commitments for firms with the “two ticks” accreditation includes interviewing all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy and to consider them on their abilities.

If you are unsure about how best to communicate with an employer about your disability, you can speak to one of our Careers Advisers, who can advise you on the most effective way to present your individual circumstances.

Analytical & competency based questions

Employers use these questions to find out whether you:

  • have the personal qualities, motivation and skills required;
  • understand yourself and are able to be self-reflective;
  • are able to identify where and why you and the job or organisation are a good match.

Some questions may be phrased to discover how you cope in a variety of situations. In all cases there are a few points to bear in mind when selecting the best answers and examples to use:

  • Employers are asking the question for a reason – try to work out what it is
  • Answer the question that has been asked, not the question you would like to be asked
  • Give specific examples and evidence – don’t generalise
  • Vary your use of examples from the different areas of your life (academia, extra-curricular activities, work experience etc.)  –  using your most recent relevant experiences and achievements wherever possible.
  • Keep within the word limit.
Example answers

Please note that the answers below are generic and are for guidance purposes only. It’s very important to remember that whenever answering a question, try to be as specific as possible, providing detail on the specifics of the activity/achievement.

Describe any aspect of your course of particular interest to you and/or of relevance to your application.

TIPS: Re-read the job description and person specification, if available. Identify parts of your course that have provided you with relevant skills. Employers will typically be looking for evidence that you can meet deadlines, work in team situations and rise to new challenges.

EXAMPLE: “I have found most aspects of my course interesting and rewarding. The highlight has been my final-year project, which involved interviewing academics and members of the general public to find out their views on the role of science in today’s society. I derived great satisfaction from successfully and effectively completing the project within the timescale set, and enjoyed the challenge of presenting my findings to my department…….”

Identify the qualities you possess which make you suitable for a career in X?

TIPS: You must reassure the selector that you have given your choice of career careful thought, and made a match between yourself and the post that you are applying for.

EXAMPLE: “I decided on a career in X as I am well organised and passionate about working with and motivating people. For example during my summer holidays I volunteered to work for a children’s summer camp for eight weeks, with responsibility for planning and running daily activities for 11-15 year olds. My flexibility and ability to think on my feet were invaluable during this time, for example on one occasion………”

What is your greatest achievement? Explain the steps you took to achieve it.

TIPS: Think about the attributes the selector is looking for. Identify where in your life you have demonstrated them.

EXAMPLE: ” I am particularly proud of the fact that I was able to lobby my local council to install local recycling facilities. Until last summer there were no recycling facilities available in the village where I live, as such I started a campaign to have the facilities installed. I was able to recruit four volunteers and together we asked local residents to sign a petition in favour of the facilities, wrote to local newspapers to raise awareness about our cause and to several local firms asking for sponsorship and help…”

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This information was last updated on 23 August 2017.
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