General Application Advice

Please note that the following is general advice and does not relate specifically to the application forms on this site.

Application Forms

It is not possible to produce a good application without giving yourself the time to do so. You need to read through the form itself, and any accompanying literature, before you begin to draft your answers.

  • Check your dates and details for the factual section
  • Consider which of your achievements / experiences you can use
  • Examples can be drawn from your social life as well as your academic and work experience
  • Think about what the employer is looking for and what you need to show
  • Remember that this is an opportunity to sell yourself
  • If applying online ensure you are using the most up-to-date version of your web browser to ensure compatibility with the online application form.

Tailor your application

You need to be sure that you are applying to the right jobs/companies, otherwise you will find it extremely difficult to complete the application form:

  • Have you thoroughly researched both?
  • Have you a realistic idea of what the job involves?
  • Do you know what the employer is looking for?
  • Could you do the job/fit in to the organisation?


  • List the skills that are required and then list the evidence you will use to match them
  • Try out different answers. It may take several attempts to get balanced answers which fit in the spaces provided
  • Use positive language and write clearly and concisely
  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Get someone to check what you have written.

Watch the detail

  • Follow any instructions - these often appear at the top of the form
  • Pay attention to the layout
  • Check with your referees before putting their names down. You may also want to let them know which jobs you have applied for and give them a copy of your application.
  • Make sure that you have answered all the questions and addressed all of the criteria
  • Keep a copy of the completed form - you will need to refer to it if you go for interview.

Covering Letters

These are formal letters to introduce your Application Form or CV to the right person within an organisation. It is the first thing any employer will read and, as such, should create a positive impression and encourage them to take your application seriously.
Rules - your letter should:

  • Be addressed to a particular person
  • Use one side of A4, on good quality paper
  • Be clear, concise and easy to read - with no spelling or grammar mistakes
  • Have a positive tone and not use words like 'I have only...', 'just'
  • Highlight your key strengths and suitability for the job
  • Explain why you are interested in the job, Organisation and what you have to offer
  • End on a positive note, e.g. 'looking forward to meeting you'.

Emailing Covering Letters:

  • Send to the right person - don't cc lots of people
  • Use the subject line to give the vacancy title/reference number or to state what your email is about
  • Put your personal details (such as address etc.) at the end
  • Use short sentences and very short paragraphs
  • Don't be too casual or over familiar
  • Check spelling and grammar, NB if sending a CV as an attachment remember to include your own name in the file name eg johnsmithCV.doc.

Online applications

Increasingly, employers are using computer based application forms, via the internet. This is a trend that is likely to continue and some companies are only accepting online applications. For most vacancies applicants today are expected to be computer literate, and applying online serves to demonstrate your skills.

  • It's fast, including the time it takes for an employer to acknowledge your application
  • It's simpler and uses less paper
  • It can be more objective, no assumptions made on the basis of your handwriting.


  • You may be more tempted to do a fast, sloppy application
  • Because the 'boxes' on the form usually expand endlessly to fit the text, you might ramble on and on. On the other hand it is sometimes the case that some 'boxes' give a restrictive word count.

Before you start

Just as with any printed Application Form, the content of your application is vital. You need to think about the questions and prepare your responses. You should practice your answers in a separate document or on paper. The text boxes will probably expand, but you should try and produce balanced responses. It may help to think about the space usually allocated on a traditional printed form.

After you've completed the form

Check your spelling and grammar, especially as you cannot always use a spell check (NB this does not always pick up on all mistakes eg liaise, driving licence, these are the correct spellings!). Before actually sending the form, read it through, making sure you have completed all sections. Ensure you have access to a copy to consult before your interview.