With countless graduates applying for jobs, you need to find ways to ensure your application form grabs the attention of recruiters
The first step is to get the basics right. Ensure that you complete all the right sections of the job application form, you attach any additional documents that are requested such as your CV, and you meet the deadline. For more on what to include, see write a successful job application. However, given the fierce competition, you'll need to go further than this.
Do your research
Applicants who have researched the company they are applying to always make a good impression. Go beyond a cursory glance at their website: find out as much as possible about the organisation and its current projects, check the news for any issues facing the wider sector, and find out what competition the company has. You can also browse the company's social media channels.
Work this knowledge into your application form by referring to it in your personal statement or responses to questions.
Include relevant skills and experience
One section of the application form will typically ask you to list your entire academic and employment history. But when it comes to answering competency-based questions or writing a personal statement, it's up to you to pick and choose what to include.
It's vital that you read the job description and person specification carefully - it will outline exactly what skills and experience the employer is looking for and you should emphasise these in your application form. Give specific examples demonstrating when you have gained the experience or used the skill. Avoid being vague and don't waste space writing about skills you have that aren't relevant to the job.
Show your personality
Application forms can be dry documents and it's difficult to give an idea of what you're like as a person via an online form. Try to inject some personality into your answers.
Don't talk exclusively about your academic and employment history - find ways to include information about your other interests. For example, refer to extra-curricular activities that have helped you to gain the necessary skills for the job, and show that you can get along with a variety of different people.
Avoid common mistakes
There are a number of things you should avoid at all costs if you want to get through to the interview stage. For example, don't supply generic responses by copying and pasting applications you've completed for other jobs. Always be specific, tailoring your answers to the company that you're applying to and the skills and experience outlined in the job description.
Make sure you complete every required section of the application form. Online forms often won't let you press submit until each part is done, but you should check anyway. You don't want to miss out on the job because you missed out a vital element of the application form.
Most crucially, be honest - employers will check the accuracy of information you provide. Exaggerating your skills or experience is certain to come back to haunt you later on.
Sell your achievements
In most cases your application form is the first chance potential employers have to get to know you, so don't miss the opportunity to sell yourself. This isn't the time to be too modest about your achievements. Include anything you feel is relevant to the role and makes you the right candidate for the job.
Talk about your passion for the role or the sector the organisation works in. Discuss the skills and experience you've gained during your degree, on internships and placements, in your part-time job, while doing voluntary work, at your university club or society, or while on a gap year. If you can relate it to the job requirements, then it's worth mentioning.
You need to come across as confident, so ensure that your answers are positive. For example, don't waffle as this may indicate that you're trying to cover up the fact that you lack a particular skill the employer is looking for. Instead, keep your answers short and to the point, explaining clearly how you meet the requirements of the role.
Double-check your application
Spend time going back over your form to ensure the spelling and grammar is spot on. Get a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it through as well. No matter how much time you've spent on an application, if there are any spelling or grammars mistakes it will look careless and damage your chances of making progress.
Only send the form or click submit when you've double-checked every section and are happy with your responses to each question.
Find out more
- See example questions and answers for application forms.
- Get advice on CVs and cover letters.
- Search graduate jobs.