Back to Basics: Application forms

In this blog I am going to take you through some basic tips with using application forms to apply for jobs.  Here are some basic instructions to help:

  1. Read the instructions

This sounds so simple, but I have been supporting people with writing applications for nearly 20 years and you would be surprised at the amount of people who have not read the instructions.

If the recruiter has specifically asked to use their form and not a CV. Then do not attach your CV. Use their form. They have designed a recruitment process which uses the sections and assess the information in their form to create an interview shortlist. Including a CV does not support that process, so will not add any value in that process. It also suggests that you cannot follow instructions. I do not want people working for me who cannot follow instructions, do you?

2. Complete all the sections in the application form.

They are there for a purpose (explained above) so complete them. If you are struggling to understand a section or question, book in a career’s express appointment with one of our advisers and we will help. You can find the link to our booking system in My Career Centre:

Current students can use this link:

Use your My Hope login details to log in.

Alumni can use this one:

Use the details you entered to access the centre as an alumnus. If you did not complete that before you graduated, put your email in the reset password section and a link will be sent to your university email account. Yes, it is still active.

3. If you are asked specific competency or behavioural questions in the form, answer them using the STAR framework. Situation, Task, Action, Result.

Using the STAR (situation, task, action and result) method to structure your answers is a useful way to communicate important points clearly and concisely. For every answer you give identify the:

Situation/task – describe the task that needed to be completed or the situation you were confronted with. For example, ‘I led a group of colleagues in a team presentation to potential clients’.

Action – Explain what you did and how and why you did it. For example, ‘We presented to around 20 big industry players in the hope of winning their business. I delegated sections of the presentation to each team member and we discussed our ideas in a series of meetings. After extensive research and practise sessions our group presentation went off without a hitch’.

Result – Describe the outcome of your actions. For example, ‘As a result of this hard work and team effort we won the business of 15 clients’.


5. If you are asked to write a personal statement – Use the Person Specification and Job Description as a guide for content.

People always come to me and say: “I don’t know how to sell myself; I am just not that type of person”. This is fine not many people are like this.

You do not need to show off about anything, I like to say be Messi more than Ronaldo. In football Ronaldo is brilliant, he knows he is brilliant and acts like he is brilliant on the pitch, he celebrates and loves it all. Messi is brilliant too, but Messi does not act it as much, he does his talking on the pitch. He just gets the ball on the halfway line glides past 5 players and scores a beautiful goal.

When writing your statement, you need to demonstrate that you have the skills, character and experiences which are required for the job. You do need to show off or use some brilliant sales pitch about yourself, you simply need to confidently show them that you have and if possible, exceed the requirements for that job.

My tip is to copy and paste all the criteria from the person specification into a word processing application, use each one as a subheading. Then write an example showing how you have used that skill to achieve an outcome or had that experience where you have achieved an outcome or used that behaviour / characteristic to achieve an outcome. For each one. Sometimes editing one example may cover more than one subheading, merging some subheadings together is fine. Then you decide to keep the subheadings in or to delete them and make the statement read good, with a start, middle and end.

If possible you could look at the criteria, let’s say it’s Communication Skills, then you could read through the job description and figure out what tasks you will be doing which require communication skills. You will then have a good understanding of the context in which you will need to use communication skills in that job. You will then be able to use an example which demonstrates communication skills in a similar context. E.g. You do not want to give an example of how well you write reports if you are applying for a job where you do not write any reports. If the job is face to face customer service, then give an example of that, If you can, if not then next best transferable example works.

Yes, I went from instruction 3 to instruction 5. I purposely missed out number 4. That’s to test you, if you noticed, Well done. If not, get better at reading instructions before applying for a job.

Also check out My Career Centre using the links in instruction 2. We have loads of resources about writing applications plus many more on there. You can also have a read this blog.

Chris Biggs

Senior Careers Adviser

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