It’s always exciting when you’re job seeking online and finally find a few jobs you’d like to apply for. However, the application is not as simple as you initially thought. On some job postings, employers ask you to simply upload your CV and/or cover letter, others may ask you to fill out an additional application form.
When online job applications pop up unexpectedly, it may cause you to have second thoughts, especially if application forms make you feel nervous. However, there is a good way to do this, and we want to help you make a good first impression and feel confident with job applications you may need to complete in the future.
What’s your first step?
When an application form looks daunting, the best thing you can do is break it down into sections. This way, hopefully it will help those feelings of being overwhelmed and allow you to take it one step at a time. Take the time to scroll through the form and see what it is you’ll be needing. If it asks for information such as work experience dates, degree dates, information about you and potentially ID information, make sure you list these things down and ensure you have all the information on hand for when you start to fill it out. Ensuring you have it all at the ready can help you feel calmer.
Break it down into sections
One of the reasons online job applications can feel so scary is because you don’t know where to start. Take some time to take a look and see where you want to start. If you have the ability to save your application and come back to it later, you don’t have to do it all at once and you can start wherever you find easiest.
Read the questions carefully and really try to understand what it is the employer is asking you. A lot of application forms have word counts or character limits, so be sure that you’re sticking to this and making sure you get your point across. This is why it can be so important to walk away and come back to it after some time. Have a think about your answer, come back and see if you’ve portrayed it correctly. Unless there are time restraints or you’re unable to save, this can be a really useful way of working.
How to answer the questions
Firstly, take your time. When starting to fill out question and answer parts of the application, make sure you read them properly. A simple ask but one so many people skim past to get it done quicker. It’s good to take some time and think of a good example when answering. What have you done in your career or other parts of your life that would reflect well in this question? Not everything has to be work related, so if you’re on your first job search, you can include ‘real life’ scenarios as well. Make sure you are relating the question to the job you’re applying for though. Not only does this show the employer that you’re the right candidate for the job but it also tells them you understand the role you’re applying for.
Take information from your CV and cover letter. Job applications aren’t trying to trick you, they want the information from your CV, but put into a different perspective. They not only want to know that you have the skills but how you would use them in the role. Job application questions can be very similar to interview questions, so it’s good to use these as preparation.
Make sure you follow guidelines. As mentioned above, some employers may ask you to stick to character and word limits. If you don’t, this could see your application being rejected. It’s a simple mistake but one many people can make. This is usually because applications make their way through an ATS (applicant tracking system) - this software checks CVs and applications to make sure they’re ready for the employer to read. It can scan through your entire application but checks things like key skills, word count etc. So you may be caught out before your application has even made it into the employers’ hands. You can read more about these systems and how to avoid them on our careers and advice page.
Customise your answers
Just like tailoring your CV and interview questions, you want to make sure you are writing your application form for this specific employer. It’s all well and good having answers prepared that you can just copy and paste into the boxes, but personalising these is what’s going to help stand out from the crowd. If you do have answers prepared, take these and make some small changes to them.
Research the company to find out what projects they’re currently involved in. Is there a way you can share your experience and link it to company ideas and work? You want the employer to know you’re a top candidate but tell them you’re right for them. What can you do for them?
Make sure you’re applying for roles you want
This isn’t the case for everyone but make sure you’re applying for jobs you want and feel like you’d enjoy. If you are able to feel excited and see yourself in that role, it can become easier to fill out application forms. Not just for answering the questions but to ensure that you actually feel motivated to do it. Sometimes, when we’re forced to do something, we just don’t find entertaining or useful, we don’t produce our best work. It’s only natural and we all do it.
Or it could be that you really don’t enjoy the job search. It can be a stressful time. If this is the case, make sure you give yourself enough time to take your time. The last thing you want to do is rush and not have enough time to check through it.
Once you’ve finished your application, it can be really tempting to push the send button. But if you have time, make sure you’re giving yourself the opportunity to read it through. Spend some time away from your screen and come back with a fresh mind. Check for any grammatical errors, ask a family member or friend to read through it, maybe you’ll want to change something or have a different idea? Always double check if you can!
Importantly, don’t forget to attach other elements of your application. This means the correct CV and cover letter. Attach the documents, click through to them and double check. This can be an easy downfall for so many individuals - don’t let it happen to you.
Lastly, make sure you’re happy. Don’t send work that you’re not proud of. It may take a bit of time to get perfect, but it’ll get there.