Application Forms

With this in mind, one rule is worth mentioning from the start: 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 is 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.

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Tips for online forms

  • 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.
  • Make a note of the word limit before you write your answers, when you copy them into the actual form you may be cut off at the word limit automatically.
  • 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, make sure you do so.

General points

  • Be accurate, and plan how to use the space and word count/character limit available.
  • 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 appropriate: no need for gimmicky email addresses), and check your email account regularly!

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 academic tutor; the other might be a person you did relevant work experience with, or who knows you well personally.
  • Some form of equal opportunities monitoring  – this often includes questions on age, gender, ethnicity, disability, etc. This information is confidential and is to make sure employers are attracting applications from a diverse pool of candidates. For instance, if there are no applicants with disabilities, it could indicate the presence of unconscious bias in how the role or brand is being marketed. 

A note on 'disclosing' a disability and/or long-term health condition

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 you 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 online tests/exercises, as once completed, most will not retroactively take your disability into consideration when assessing your performance.

See our disability and careers pages for more information on disclosing a disability in the recruitment process. It is also worth reading employer websites to find out more about their equality and diversity policies and practices. This could help you to better understand how they support employees with disabilities and/or long-term health conditions.

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.

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 why you and the job 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.

For more information on general graduate competencies see our information on developing your skills.

Using the STAR technique could also help you structure your answers. There is further information about this technique on our how to show you fit the job criteria page

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