In the last post What is the purpose of an application form? I proposed that the primary purpose of any application form was to get the candidate in front of a recruiting manager for an interview. To achieve that, in my experience as both a candidate and a recruiting manager, there are two basic things that the application form must possess 1.quality content and 2. quality presentation. Alright, they are a bit etherial but let me elaborate and give you some of my thoughts from the experiences that I have had.

1. Quality content:
The job specification, vacancy notice and application form all work hand in hand to assist the recruiting manager to identify the most suitable candidates, based on the data provided on the application form, for interview.
At the very basic level if a field has been provided for some form of input, it is usually there to be filled in; if it is not applicable to you then write that in, only if it is obviously inappropriate leave it blank.
When a question asks for a specific type of response, such as “Please provide three achievements from the last three years, these can be from areas in work or outside” then comply with the request; if it asks for three then provide three.
With a question such as the “provide three accomplishments…”, to comply to the letter of the request you could just list three accomplishments. However, from my own experience this is generally only the ‘starter for 10…’, the more successful candidates will then go on to explain why they were achievements, what their part was in the achievement and what they learned from the experience.
Now, as with consumer competitons we get to the ‘tie breaker question’ which is generally phrased along the lines of “Why do you wish to be considered for this job?”, this is your opportunity to convince the recruiting manager of your capabilities and suitability to the role. I have seen responses to such a question along the lines of “well I fancied a change and this seemed to be as good an opportunity as any other”, I ask you is that really going to impress anybody? What I, and my peers, are looking for here is why you are motivated to apply for the job, what you think you can bring to it and how your education and/or prior experiences fit against the skills and competencies listed in the job specification/vacancy notice. The more specific and measurable you can make that evidence, the better.

2. Quality presentation:
First and foremost follow any instructions, if it says to write in black ink and block capitals do it. The same can be said for continuing on separate sheets, not writing outside of boxes, word limits etc. When completing a form electronically, use the same font style throughout; it is very distracting and untidy to swap from a true type font to a fixed width font halfway through a form. Tailor your responses to the size of the space provided, if you have a side of A4 to respond to a question the recruiter is probably looking for a lengthy response. Similarly, if it is a small text box only one or two lines are expected. Adopt a concise writing style, use short sentences and paragraphs, avoid long winded, verbose responses and keep your responses relevant. At all times be truthful, lies have a nasty habit of coming back and biting you on the backside. Avoid jargon and three/four letter acronyms, if you must use them be courteous enough to atleast write them out fully once, for example, Three Letter Acronym (TLA). Then to the big one, ensure that spelling and grammar are checked and double checked. If you are using a spell checker be even more wary as it will not show when a word such as sales has been misspelt seals.

I would also encourage you to get somebody else to read through and critique your form, having a fresh pair of eyes run over it can often pick up errors that you have become blind to. If at all possible get someone of a similar grade or in a similar position to the recruiting manager to critique it and get their feedback on the answers you have given. This can be invaluable.

That’s been a bit of a whistle-stop tour through some application form tips. If you have any comments or would like to add to them, please comment below.