How to fill in application forms

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Basic rules

For some jobs employers may ask you to fill in an application form instead of a CV. When you fill in an application form:

  • follow the supplied instructions
  • present the information clearly and neatly
  • sell your most relevant skills
  • show how your experience relates to the job and the questions asked
  • read it over a few times to check for spelling and grammar errors
  • ask someone else to proofread it and check it for you
  • check you’ve filled in all the boxes that are relevant to you, and put ‘N/A’ (not applicable) in boxes that aren’t relevant to you
  • photocopy or print out the finished application form, so you have a record of what you’ve written
  • make sure you submit your application to arrive before the closing date

Online forms

Most employers will ask you to apply online. Get someone to help you if you’re not confident using a computer. Do a practice application first using a word processing package like Word. Spellcheck it thoroughly before you send it.

If you save a draft version on your computer you’ll always have a backup copy that you can refer to or send in again if you need to. Some websites let you save different sections of your application form as you fill it in, so you don’t have to do it all in one go.

Make sure you keep a record of any usernames and passwords you use so you can get back in.

Paper forms

If it says write in capitals or use black ink, then do so.

Photocopy the original and practise filling it in. This way you can avoid mistakes and crossings-out when you fill in the real one. Take care of the original form – don’t spill anything on it or crease it.

Previous employers

Some applications forms ask you to enter your reason for leaving previous jobs. Be positive about your previous roles, no matter how you feel about the employers. Keep your answers short – you’ll normally have just a small space next to each job in the work history section.

Common reasons to put are:

  • end of fixed term contract
  • career progression
  • redundancy
  • caring responsibilities
  • starting a course

Personal statement

Some application forms ask for a personal statement. In this section you should show you’re motivated to do the job and you’ve carefully considered why you feel you would be good at it. 

Provide answers for each of the points in the person specification. You might like to present them one by one with a heading, so the person reading it can clearly see to which point you’re referring.  

Use examples 

Examples provide clear evidence that you’ve got a skill and know how to apply it in real situations. 

For example, instead of making a simple claim like, ‘I’m great with money and adding up’, it would tell employers much more if you put, ‘I’ve been in charge of the stationery budget for two years and have been responsible for cashing up at the end of the day’. 

After providing an example, reflect on the experience to show that you can learn from your experiences and are always trying to improve. For example, you could say that being in charge of the stationery budget taught you the importance of prioritising, planning ahead and keeping accurate records. 

Even if you haven’t got the experience to show that you’ve got a particular skill, you could say how similar experiences and skills would help you approach this area. For example, ‘my experience of learning how to use a spreadsheet from scratch shows I can pick up software packages very quickly, so I’m confident I’d be able to get up to speed with the package in a short time…’  

Communicate your enthusiasm 

Try to put across how keen you are to get the job and what attracted you to the organisation. Try to use very positive language and describe what you could bring to the company. 

Show some knowledge of the company, such as what they do, what their strengths are and any latest developments that have been in the news.


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Dolphin Estate

Lagos, 101233, Nigeria


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