Application forms

Most courses and many large organisations provide an application form – sometimes online. Using application forms enables recruiters to compare like-for-like information.

You will usually receive an information pack with the form, or have access to online information about the course or job, which will usually include a detailed job specification. Use this information to identify the skills and competences an employer is looking for. ‘ Competence’ is the ability to perform an action to a specific standard.

More than 50% of organisations now use a competency-based approach, where they have analysed the competences specifically required for the job and ask questions accordingly. Therefore, employers using this approach are trying to see how your skills would apply in the job. The questions will usually be trying to uncover evidence of what Transferable skills you have.

The question will usually describe a scenario, such as ‘please give some examples of situations where you have displayed leadership’. In these cases, briefly describe the situation, give the result(s) and, if you can, say what you learned from the experience. For example, you could use an example of a particular experiment in the laboratory or practical scenario you undertook within a group at college. You could explain how you were nominated as the group leader and how you coordinated the different tasks that were required in order to complete the work. You could describe any difficulties or challenges you faced as the group leader and how you overcame these. This would not only demonstrate your leadership skills, but would also highlight your interest in your subject.

If you have prepared well, completing the form should be straightforward. However, to be safe, complete a photocopied draft form first; if online download a hard copy to use as a draft. This will make sure that you have all the information necessary and that you have enough room to write within the boxes provided. There may be instructions in the information pack on what to do if you do not have sufficient space. If in doubt, ask. Online forms are more flexible and each box will usually expand as you put in more information.

  • Be sure to note instructions given on the form; for example the organisation may ask for employment or experience history in date order or ask for the most recent first
  • Neatness is important as it will be the first thing that the recruiter will notice
  • Decisions on whom to interview should be made on the quality of your skills, but presentation is important, especially when deciding which of two candidates should be invited for interview
  • Never use abbreviations or acronyms (‘ NVQ’ for example) without explaining them the first time you use them.