How to fill out a first-class application form

Application form help

Get the basics right

  • Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind before you start. Otherwise, it’s easy to see an application form as a chore to get out of the way as quickly as possible.
  • Find a quiet, comfortable place and allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to fill in the form.
  • Read all the instructions thoroughly before starting, and follow them exactly.
  • Save your progress at every possible opportunity.
  • To make sure your spelling is correct, spell-check, spell-check and spell-check again. If spell-check isn’t available on the online form, write your text in Word and spell-check it there. Then copy and paste it into the form.
  • Avoid shortcuts like copying and pasting text from your CV. Make the effort to tailor your application and prove to the employer that you really want their job.
  • Avoid negative statements. If you don’t have the specific experience required, try to provide an example that demonstrates similar skills or experience instead. For example, rather than saying, “I have no experience in using NHS database systems”, you might say, “Although I don’t have direct experience of using NHS database systems, I’ve used a number of databases in my previous roles – including Access and in-house databases. As a result, I have a good understanding of database systems, and I’ve shown I can learn a new system quickly."
  • Make sure the dates are correct in the sections on the qualifications and work experience.

Make your application form stand out from the crowd

  • “Targeting” is the key to a first-class application form. Always relate your answers directly to what the employer says they’re looking for in the job advertisement, or in the job specification they sent you.
  • If they’ve supplied you with a Person Specification, make sure you’ve addressed each point in the correct order. This makes short-listing much easier for the employer.
  • For each point, provide specific examples of how you have the skills for the job. Don’t just tell the employer you have them (and hope they believe you!).
  • Make sure you’ve mentioned all your skills and experience that are relevant to the job, while keeping what you say reasonably short and to the point.
  • Make sure your language is positive and dynamic.

Avoid falling at the final hurdle

  • Once you’ve filled in the form, carefully check that you’ve answered all the questions to the best of your ability.
  • Make it clear which job you’re applying for, including any reference numbers.
  • Make sure you’ve completed, saved and sent the form to the employer before the closing date.
  • If you’re sending a form by post, ideally use an envelope big enough to take the form without folding. (A4 is usually fine.) Remember that the postage you pay will depend on the size and weight of the form – so get it weighed at the Post Office. Employers aren’t likely to cover unpaid postage charges in order to receive your application.