First of all you will need at least 3-4 hours to complete any application. Do it in less time would increase the chances of it being unsuccessful. More time may be needed after this for proofreading.

An application form may only be one part of the application process so be sure you have enough time to fulfil all that is required at this initial stage. This may include psychometric tests, numeracy tests (however these may come later once you are passed the first stage), an accompanying CV or cover letter.

Double check their requirements before you even start to make sure you have enough time.

Start off by having a copy of the job description, person specification and up to date CV in front of you. Application forms will ask for the same information as your CV such as contact information, education, employment history, qualifications and references. Try and move through these sections as quickly as possible.

Try and give yourself a bit of time to do some research on the company. At the very least you should look at the About Us pages and some press releases or recent reports. Demonstrating your awareness of what the company does it vital so hint at some of this research in your application. If you get passed this initial stage, you should some further research so you come across as knowledgeable about the company at the interview.

Your focus should be on the personal statement, relevant information section and competency based questions. The person specification should indicate what is essential and what is desirable – make sure you cover all the essential skills in the application before moving onto the desirables. If you are really pushed for time you may have to leave these.

The personal statement is a summary of yourself; your ‘unique selling points’. This is not dissimilar to a profile you might include on your CV or what you might include on a cover letter. The size of the box or specified word count will indicate how long this might need to be.

Analyse the person specification to identify the skills they are looking for and use this for the relevant information section. Within this section you will need to give examples of how you can match these skills.

Competency based questions are designed to see how you can apply your experiences to attributes they are looking for. An ideal answer will give a real life situation (it doesn’t matter whether this is academic, work or pleasure), the result of the situation and how you individually contributed to reach that outcome.

Final checks should include checking for typos; all documents are attached; and putting N/A in any blank boxes.

Finally keep a copy of the final application form you submit, if you get to the interview stage you will need to refer back to it.

Tips

  1. Try and avoid copying and pasting answers or use sparingly. However, if you are strapped for time this can be done but make sure you proofread properly and check that your answers really apply to the questions being asked.
    If you can print out your application and proof read it this way it might be wise. Proofreading this way if often easier a more thorough, vital if you are in a hurry.
  2. Try and give yourself enough time and apply for positions when you see them. Some positions are filled on a first come first serve basis so applying asap is best. HR managers will often review applications as they go along so they may have earmarked the number of people they need before you even send yours in.
  3. Last minute applications should be for emergencies only and not common practice.
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