Job application forms

A lot of people miss out on jobs because they don't fill in the application form properly. Maximise your chances of being picked for a job interview by using these hints and tips.

Guy who hates filling out forms

After the 100th form, it all got too much for Joel.

What’s on the job application form?

Application forms tend to have three or four main parts:

  • Personal details. This will include your name, contact details and often your current role and employer.
  • Previous employment and education. You’ll be asked to list your previous employers, your education and what qualifications you’ve gained. You may also be asked to list any work-related training received or professional organisations that you belong to.
  • Personal statement. This is the bit where you really get to sell yourself and explain why you want the job. It’s the equivalent of a covering letter, so the same principles apply.
  • Role-related questions or tasks. An employer may ask specific questions relating to the role, or for you to undertake a short task.

There may also be an equality monitoring section, either as part of the form or as a separate piece of paper. You may also be required to provide references.

Filling in the form

Generally it’s a good idea to type the form, but if you are going to handwrite it then it’s worth photocopying the form a few times so you can practice filling it in.

Before you start writing, remember to:

  • Get a copy of the role description or person specification and write your answers to match what is listed;
  • Take your time. You will make more mistakes if you rush;
  • Read instructions carefully all the way through;
  • Ask for an explanation if you don’t understand something;
  • Keep your CV handy for easy access to dates and facts;
  • Be honest – you will be caught out sooner or later. Employers can check your qualifications, and errors can result in you being sacked from your job.

If you are required to complete the application form online, it’s best to make a note of the questions and save them on your computer, rather than try and complete it in the boxes on the web page. Many employers will provide ‘offline’ versions of the form so you don’t have to work on it while being online.

Previous employment and education

  • For work experience and education sections, put the most recent things first and in the most detail;
  • If you don’t have much of an employment history, write about part-time jobs and work experience, and what you learned from them;
  • If there are gaps in your employment and education, put a brief explanation, even if it was because you were on the dole. Unexplained gaps are a tell-tale sign of something not right with an application, and yours could be binned because of it.

Personal statement

  • Make a list of things the employer is looking for (work experience, qualifications, skills) and work out the best way to show them that you have all these qualities.
  • Write about duties, responsibilities, and what you achieved in your last place of work;
  • Explain why you want this particular job, and what you can bring to the role;
  • Make sure you sound like an interesting person, so mention out-of-work interests and hobbies. However simply listing computer games, clubbing and surfing the net won’t make you particularly appealing.


  • Print off your form and read it through thoroughly. Double check your spelling and grammar, and that you have answered the questions correctly and matched your answers to the job specification;
  • Get friends, family or a tutor to look through what you’ve written;
  • If you are handwriting your form, do it very carefully with black ink, in your neatest writing. If you make mistakes, don’t cross them out, use correction fluid;
  • Keep a copy of your completed form. You will need to look back at your answers if you are called for an interview;
  • If you are sending it in the post, put the form in a large envelope, so it isn’t folded more than once. This makes it easier for the employer to scan or photocopy.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015