Most commonly used by large graduate recruiters, an online application form will ask you questions about your skills and motivation. Our resources and mini course will tell you how to get it right.
- Top Tips
- Do your research – Make yourself the expert on your chosen employer, the type of work and the skills required for the role.
- Don’t rush – Applications can be very time consuming. Give yourself plenty of time to complete them well.
- Follow the instructions – Take careful note of word counts and other guidelines.
- Check it and get it checked – It is your job to get rid of any spelling and grammatical errors. We will be happy to give you feedback on all other aspects of your applications.
- Always keep a copy, so you can remind yourself before your interview or assessment centre. You might not be able to access online applications once you have submitted.
- The basics
Application forms help employers to assess and compare candidates quickly and directly on specific criteria. They can vary considerably. Some will ask you a number of lengthy questions, others only for basic details before uploading a CV and covering letter.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare before you complete your application:
- Research the employer’s requirements thoroughly. Employers don’t all look for the same skills.
- Carry out a skills audit to help you identify examples from your studies, work experience and interests which demonstrate these skills. You can also use our Skills Map.
- Many employers prefer you to use the STARR method for answering competency-based questions. Our guide to Creating STARR Examples can help you with this.
Almost all application forms are completed online. Once you have created an account, you can copy tricky questions into a document. This will allow you to draft your answers (using all the available word/character count but no more!) and receive feedback before you submit your final version.
- What will they ask?
Almost all application forms will ask you for personal/contact details, academic qualification, references (always ask permission before you include referees’ details) as well as work experience and volunteering.
Think carefully about how you describe previous experience. Point out skills relevant to the job and use good strong language to outline your responsibilities. You might find the power word list in the job application advice resource helpful.
Most applications also include competency-based questions which ask you to provide examples from your own experience to demonstrate required skills. They usually take the form of:
- Can you give me an example of when…?
- Tell me about a time when…
Once you have selected the most appropriate examples for each question, use the STARR (Situation, Task, Actions, Result, Reflection) structure to shape your answers. Use our guide on Creating STARR Examples to help with this.
Finally, you can also expect questions such as: “Why do you want to work for us?” or “What attracts you to… (the type of job/area of work/sector)?” Be specific about your reasons for applying to the employer – such as areas of specialisation, training and support, charity involvement – and to the type of work. Ideally, link this to the skills you have to offer.
- Get feedback
Once you have drafted your application form answers and double checked the spelling and grammar, we can give you some feedback on the quality and impact of your answers.