Although many organizations – mainly in the private sector still ask for resumes or CVs, the public sector and large organizations still require completion of an application form as part of the recruitment process. The application form is essentially your resume and cover letter combined into one application.
Completing a lengthy job application form can be a daunting and arduous task. However, what you put on your application will determine whether the panel want to meet with you. If you want to get through to the interview stage, you need to use the application form to generate excitement about the value you can bring to the role.
For any desirable job role, keep in mind that you’re going up against possibly hundreds of similarly qualified candidates. The application form is your chance to shine and differentiate yourself from the competition. If you don’t stand out, your application is doomed!
When you apply for a job that requires completion of a job application form, you’ll typically receive a collection of documents that include the job application form, the job description and the person specification.
The job description holds vital information about what the organization is looking for. Understanding the job requirements will help you work out where your strengths align with the company’s needs, and whether you’ll need to address any skills or experience gaps in your application. If the job description is vague or not detailed enough, contact the HR department or the recruiter with a brief, polite email to ask for more information.
To assess whether a job is strong match for your skills and background, review the job description, person specification and your resume, and make a list of the skills the employer is looking for based on the following questions:
Once you have a good understanding of the job’s main requirements, the next step is to assess how well your background and experience are suited to the role, and how any lessons learned from prior experiences could factor into this role.
Take a thorough inventory of your interests, skills and competencies, strengths, accomplishments, values, goals and experience. Make a detailed list. The key to finding your dream job is to recognize what makes you a unique candidate and to communicate this effectively to a prospective employer.
Answering the questions listed below will help you determine how well you measure up to the role you’re applying for. Be sure to write your answers down before attempting to write a single paragraph of the cover letter.
Make sure that you use the actual key terms used in the job advert and person specification document when writing answers to these questions.
Note that you must have demonstrable examples to back up any qualities that you claim to possess. The employer is not looking to pay you to perform a duty. They are looking for results. For example, if you claim to have “strong problem-solving skills”, you need to cite examples of instances in previous jobs that demonstrates that you have this trait or characteristic.
If you cannot think of real-life stories or practical examples to support your assertion, there’s no point making the claim because anybody can make the same claim, and it will not help you stand out from the crowd.
When completing an application form for certain jobs such as government jobs, you are usually required to write an additional statement in support of your application to explain how you meet the speciﬁc job requirements.
Essentially, this is the most important section of the entire application, and it could make or break your job application.
This section presents the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate exactly why your background, qualifications, skills and experience make you a strong candidate for the position.
To give your application the best possible chance of succeeding, it is important to illustrate it with speciﬁc examples, highlight your best accomplishments, and get to the point quickly without waffling.
Grab the list you made earlier. How do your skills, background and experience make you a strong candidate for the position? For each required skill or ability, provide specific, relevant examples in your work history that demonstrates that you possess the required expertise.
The examples you have cited should explain the specific circumstances in which you developed those skills, and how this applies to the post for which you are applying. It is not enough to simply state what you have done in your previous jobs or what you would do in a hypothetical situation. If you are a student or recent graduate, include any relevant coursework such as academic papers, presentations, group projects, etc.
Select the strongest examples that demonstrate your level of expertise. Look for your most difficult work that produced the best results. For example, if initiative and problem solving are required skills, it will not be enough to simply state “I am a strong leader and problem solver.”
As earlier mentioned, it is also not enough to simply summarize your tasks. You need to highlight practical examples of situations in previous jobs that demonstrate your leadership and problem solving ability. For each example you give, provide specific details. When and where did it happen? What were the circumstances? Was it at your current job? A past job? At school? Did it happen once or every day? What was the outcome of what you did?
You could start out by saying: “In my current position as a customer service executive, I.…” can or “As a student at South Bank University, I.…” Explain the positive changes that resulted from your work. Did you save money or time? Were your customers happier? Was a project easier to complete because of what you did?
Consider starting your answer with one or two opening sentences. The sentences could relate to your ﬁrst example, as in, “During my 3 years as a help desk support specialist, I was required to solve difficult problems for members of the public on a daily basis.” Or you could begin with a summary of what you plan to say in the statement, as in, “I strengthened my problem solving skills while working as a help desk support specialist and while serving as prefect of my high school class.”
Consider the following example:
In my current role as an SEO Specialist for XYZ Company, I once discovered that Google changed the rules and outlawed a lot of link building techniques that used to be effective at acquiring backlinks to websites. Morale was down, and lots of client sites had lost organic traffic. The company was losing contracts.
I organized a meeting on a Friday after work with members of the link building team to share ideas and discuss strategies on how to legitimately generate backlinks from established, industry-relevant sites in light of the new rules. I made it clear that no idea was stupid and asked everybody to share whatever ideas they had.
To incentivize teammates, I convinced the manager to offer a bonus of $100 to the teammate that came up with the most effective idea. An hour was spent capturing ideas on a whiteboard, and we chose to implement the top five most popular ideas.
The most effective idea ended up generating backlinks for every member of the team who implemented the idea. We were even able to win back some of the contracts we lost. The process was so productive that my manager suggested that the meetings become a monthly event to brainstorm pertinent issues.
This increased morale and productivity, and had a significant impact on the bottom line. I believe this is a strong demonstration of my leadership and problem solving abilities, which are key skills for the completion of the job for which I am applying.
This example tackles the question by demonstrating strong initiative, team working, leadership and problem solving skills. It clearly explains the candidate’s individual role and how the steps he took to solve the problem. It is free of grammatical errors, and also provides clear details of the outcome and how the solution impacted the organization.
If you are a student or recent graduate, rather than simply saying that you wrote many papers while in school, consider describing a speciﬁc paper, noting its length, degree of complexity, intended audience, and any results it generated. You might also describe the number of papers you completed in a given period of time. Specific details like these illustrate your level of expertise better than general statements do.
Next, look for relevant accomplishments that illustrate your qualiﬁcations. Note awards, compliments about your work, special projects you completed, and problems you solved. In particular, explain how you used the skill in question to achieve what you did. If the job description asks about your knowledge of a subject, jot down any courses, workshops, or on-the-job training that gave you that knowledge.
You might also want to divide the topic into parts and describe what you know about each. When brainstorming, restate your CV’s relevant points. Even if you have submitted a CV, don’t automatically assume that the hiring decision maker will use your CV to decide if you are qualiﬁed.
Try to provide an example in a separate paragraph for each skill listed in the person specification, although you may be able to group two or more together, as in the above example where initiative and problem solving skills were demonstrated within the same example. Focus on your most difﬁcult or challenging work that produced the best results.
Try to list your examples in the order they appear in the person specification document, as this will help the reviewers recognize each skill when they are shortlisting for the best candidates. Although you should mention all relevant experience and previous learning from your past jobs and relate them to the post for which you’re applying, try to keep your statement as concise as you can.
Your application needs to be flawless, with no spelling or punctuation mistakes. So, be sure to proofread your answers. Read your draft carefully and eliminate repetition, irrelevant examples, and excessive words. Check spelling and grammar carefully.
There may be situations where you are not able to provide examples of proficiency in a specific skill listed in the person specification. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue with the application.
Whether it affects the outcome of your application will depend on how you address the situation. If you simply ignore a required skill because you don’t have any direct examples to draw on, it will have a detrimental effect on your application.
On the other hand, you can seize the opportunity to demonstrate your ingenuity by addressing how you make up for lack of experience in that area. Rather than simply ignoring it, address the requirement by discussing related strengths. For example, if the job requires experience in the use of a particular software, you can describe how you use other types of software that have the same or similar functionality. You can then explain how you plan to tackle your lack of knowledge or experience with the software.