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Having a plan to accomplish any task increases the chance of success. So why should job searching be any different? Looking for a job takes time and commitment. Job searching is much more effective when you are organised.

Take a look at how to plan your job searching

There are different ways of applying for jobs and how you apply will depend on the company’s procedure. The most common ways are;

  • Sending your CV
  • Sending your CV with a cover letter
  • Sending a speculative letter
  • Completing an online application form
  • Completing a paper application form
In order to do the first three you will need to have a CV, a cover letter and know how to write a speculative letter. We will look at these in more detail shortly.

Application forms

Employers use application forms to make sure there is a fair way of comparing candidates. Employers often have their own application forms, either online or on paper. There will usually be details of how or where to obtain an application form from on the job advert but if in doubt contact the employer. Companies also use standard job application forms because they can be processed much quicker than CVs, which tend to arrive in many formats. It’s also not unusual for a company to ask you to complete an application form in addition to a CV.

Application forms whether paper or online usually ask for;

  • Your personal details
  • Your employment history
  • Your educational history
  • Reasons why you’re a suitable candidate for the role
  • References

Some application forms will give you a list of specific competency questions to answer or ask you to write a personal statement, explaining your suitability for the job. 

You may also be asked to declare any unspent convictions and state whether you have a disability or health condition.

If you have a health condition, disability or a criminal conviction you may have concerns about disclosing this information on an application form. There is some information about disclosure further through the process. 

If you still have any questions or concerns speak to one of our online advisors who will be able to help more. 

Here are some important things to remember when you are completing an application form;

  • Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to complete the form and are filling it in in a nice, quiet place so you can concentrate.
  • Read it through it carefully to ensure that you are clear about the kind of information that the employer requires. The second biggest reason for application forms being rejected is when questions haven’t been answered.
  • Collect together all the information you can about the employer such as the job description, person specification and company details so you know what they are looking for in terms of skills, experience and qualifications
  • Put together any evidence you have to show that you meet the employer’s needs. All of your experience is important such as courses you have done, work experience, voluntary activities and interests. 
  • Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. 
  • Don't abbreviate words, and make sure you write in full sentences. Informal language does not create the right impression.
  • Make the best of yourself be honest as you will be required to talk at your interview about what you have put on your application form. 
  • Make sure you answer all the questions and fill in all the appropriate sections. If you have left a section blank, don't forget to go back to it later. If a section is not applicable to you write 'not applicable' or 'N/A'. if you leave an empty box the employer may think your form is incomplete.
  • Do a rough copy first and get someone to read through it and check for mistakes;
  • Make a copy of your completed form so that if you are called for interview, you can quickly go over what you said about yourself and prepare for the interview more effectively

Watch our short video on explaining gaps in your employment positively

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If you are completing a paper application check;

  • Whether the form asks you to write in a particular ink colour or write in block capitals.
  • Make sure you have clean hands and don’t have food or drink near you when you complete it. An application form with coffee rings on does not make a good impression!
  • Take a photocopy of the form. This means you can do a practice run to stop you making mistakes on the real thing and gives you a chance to check your spelling. It will also allow you to make sure you can fit your answers in the space provided.
If you are completing an online application form check;
  • Whether the form asks you to type your answers in upper case 
  • Write a draft copy in Word first, rather than directly on-line, so that you can copy and paste in your information (this is not always possible with some forms).
  • If you are cutting and pasting answers into applications forms from Word, make sure you have read through what you have written and adapt it to the form you are currently filling in. The last thing you want to do is to paste one employer's name into an application to another employer. This does happen on a regular basis and in most cases the employer will automatically reject your application. 
  • If you move in and out of an on-line form, remember to save your work every few minutes to avoid losing hours of hard work.

Be prepared to contact the employer to check on the progress of your application if the closing date passes and you hear nothing from them for several weeks.

Watch our short video on how employers short list


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