Applying for jobs can be daunting at the best of times and more so if its the first time you are doing it.

Help with application forms...

So, you're faced with a long, blank form. Well if you don't fill it in you've got no chance of getting the job!

There are a few things you need to do before anything else, it will make filling the application easier and also help you understand more about the company.

  • Read any background information about the company. If they have not sent any, phone them to ask for some or see if they have a website.
  • Read the form through first, so you know what each section is asking for.
  • Read through any notes or instructions attached to the form - such as do they want you to use CAPITAL LETTERS? Do they want you to use black ink?
  • Make sure your handwriting is neat and can be read - the company may reduce the application form and copy it.
  • Check your spelling and grammar, or better still, get someone else to do it!
  • Jot down what skills and abilities are needed to do the job you're applying for.
  • Write down how your skills, abilities and interests match up to those required in the job description/advert.
  • If you have a CV, use it to help. You can transfer the information from this, straight to the relevant section of the application form.

Take your time... First, if it is a paper application take a copy of the form so that you've got a practice sheet. You can also use it as a copy of the form to remind yourself of what you've written.

Note: If you can't take a copy, write out your answers in rough before filling in the form.

If the application is electronic copy the questions and type your answers in before you upload or save your final version.

Not all application forms follow the same pattern, but most will include the following:

  • Vacancy applied for and reference number - don't forget to include this if you are asked for it - if it's a large company they could be advertising several different jobs, so you need to tell them which one you are applying for.
  • Name, address, date of birth - write clearly, in capitals if they ask for them.
  • Sections with dates - such as education, training and work history. Always start with the most recent first unless you're told to do otherwise.
  • Only put in what is relevant to the job you're applying for - it's unlikely they will need to know which primary school you went to!
  • If you haven't had many (or any!) jobs, work experience and voluntary work all count - don't forget to include them as long as they are relevant.
  • Avoid leaving gaps in your education, training and work record - tell them positively how you have spent your time.
  • Hobbies and interests - don't just write a list; explain your involvement e.g. if you captain a netball team, tell them, rather than just writing 'netball' as it shows leadership and team-building skills.
  • If some of your interests are relevant to the job you are applying for, say so - for example, don't just put 'computer games' if, as a result, you have computer skills - for instance, you might be able to type or do simple programming - if so, say so.

This is quite important. It may say something like, 'space is provided here for you to write why you want to be considered for the job', or 'Further Information to support your application'.

They want to know why they should consider your application rather than one from someone else who may have equally good qualifications and experience. This is where you must sell yourself and try to stand out from the crowd!

  • Pick out keywords in the job description and match them to your work experience, skills and interests.
  • Point out what you can do and the sort of person you are.
  • Jot down key points you want to get across and then put them into clear English afterwards.
  • Further information - use this section to add important information you have not included anywhere else - such as 'full, clean driving licence' or 'keyboard skills'.
  • References - you should ask someone who can comment on your school/college work and someone who can write about your performance at work (or on work experience) - remember always ask the people you name before you apply.

...and most importantly tell the truth!

Well done! Don't forget to take a copy as it will help you if you get an interview and you can always refer to it when completing other forms. Why not set up a file to keep them in?

Lastly, don't forget to post it or email it on time!

Note: If possible don't fold it too much - it creates a much better impression and is easier to read if it's not creased.

When you apply for a job, once you have completed your CV or application form you will also have to write a covering letter to include when you send it to the employer.

Here are some hints on what to write:

  • Use plain white A4 paper.
  • A handwritten covering letter is quite acceptable if you don't have access to a computer.
  • Always use full addresses - including the postcode.
  • Put in the date.
  • If you know the name of the person you are writing to, start with 'Dear Mrs, Mr, Miss or Ms' and end with 'Yours sincerely'.
  • If you don't know the name, start with 'Dear Sir, Madam or Sirs' and end with 'Yours faithfully'.
  • State the job reference clearly at the start of the letter.
  • In the first paragraph say what you are applying for and state exactly what you are enclosing.
  • Refer to the CV and draw attention to any relevant skills or qualifications you have.
  • Point out why you are applying for this job.
  • Say when you are available for interview and ready to start.
  • Indicate references - if you have been asked to do so.
  • Print your name under your signature if it is difficult to read.

If you have been lucky enough to be invited for an interview please read our interview web page for help with preparation and interview skills.