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Application Forms

Many employers and educational institutions ask you to apply online using an application form. This can be instead of, or as well as, submitting a CV.


Employers use application forms as a selection tool. You might be asked to complete one instead of or as well as a CV. Employers are looking for evidence that:

  • you can do the job (ability and skills)
  • you want the job (motivation)
  • you want to work for them and will fit into their organisation (values)

Recruiters also use application forms as a de-selection tool. Forms with incomplete answers or which don’t fully evidence your skills are likely to be rejected.

If you're completing an application form for postgraduate study, see our guidance on applying for further study.

Even though you’re filling in boxes, your application still needs to stand out. Think about how you can demonstrate your unique qualities and the value you can bring to the organisation.

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Doing some research before you start to complete your application form is vital.

Find out as much as you can about the position and research the organisation you are applying to.

Gather the information you’ll need to complete the application form before you start. This can include academic grades and details of any work experience or jobs, including the dates you worked there.

The job description and person specification will help you identify the skills, qualities and experience the employer is seeking. You’ll need to think of specific examples of when you have demonstrated these.

Your examples could come from a range of contexts such as: 

  • your studies, such as a group project you took part in or presentation you did
  • internships or placements 
  • part-time jobs 
  • extra-curricular activities, such as volunteering or peer mentoring 
  • hobbies and interests, such as your involvement in a team sport or club

If the job description doesn’t go into detail about the skills the employer is looking for, Prospects can help:



How to make your application stand out

  • Read the instructions carefully before you start. Can you save the online form and come back to it? When is the deadline? Do you need any supporting documents, such as degree transcripts?
  • Complete every section and try to closely match the stated criteria. Keep referring to the job description to help make sure you’re evidencing the skills they’re asking for.
  • Don't cut and paste extracts from your CV or from previous application forms. Instead, tailor your answers and show how your experience relates to the role.
  • Make sure you actually answer the question asked, especially if it is in several parts.
  • Use a range of examples  in your answers and focus on how and why you were successful.
  • Draft your responses in a separate document. Get feedback on your answers from a careers consultant - do this via MyCareer.
  • Make sure your answers are succinct - avoid lengthy descriptions.
  • Check your spelling and grammar carefully. You can find online resources to help you use grammar and punctuation correctly on the Academic Skills Kit (ASK). website. If you're an international student and would like some support with your written English, you can access the In-Sessional English Language programme.
  • Write positively about yourself  and never make excuses for not having skills or experience.
  • Keep a copy of your application form  for future reference.

These websites include useful information about writing successful application forms:

How to answer application questions

Most application forms have set sections for you to complete, for example:

  • Personal details – name and contact details.
  • Education and qualifications - this includes your degree, secondary education grades and any professional/vocational training courses. If you have international qualifications, we have advice on how to present these on a UK application form.
  • Employment history - it's okay if your experience is not directly related to the job you are applying for. Focus on the relevant transferable skills you’ve gained. include any internships, placements, volunteering, part-time or full-time positions. If you had a gap year, include what you did, where this took place, how you organised/funded your trip and what skills you gained as a result of the experience.
  • Competency-based questions – see some typical question examples below.
  • Personal statement - this is usually a blank section where you are asked to evidence your motivation for applying and your suitability for the post. Make sure you address the criteria on the person specification and provide specific examples to back these up.
  • References – employers will usually ask for the name and contact details of one or two referees. Make sure you ask their permission before adding their details. One should be an academic member of staff and the other is usually a previous employer.

Other questions/sections you might come across include:

The 'STAR' approach

When structuring your answers to competency-based questions, use the 'STAR' approach:

Describe the Situation (S)

Briefly provide context to help the employer understand the example you're giving. You don't need to go into a lot of detail at this stage.

Explain the Task (T)

Provide a concise overview, ensuring that your example is relevant to the question.

Describe and analyse your Actions (A)

This part should form the bulk of your answer. Describe and analyse your actions, explaining  what, how and why you did it and the reasons you took that approach. It’s important to be reflective, rather than just descriptive.

Include any impact your actions made and any key achievements. You could also consider including any obstacles or challenges and how you overcame these successfully.

Avoid ‘we’ if talking about a situation in a team. The employer wants to know what you did. Focus on your role, contribution within the team and how you worked effectively with others.

Explain the Result (R)

What was the outcome? Did it make a difference? What did you learn from this example and how might you apply that learning in future?

Remember, it's not just what you did, but how you did it that is important.


Typical application form questions

Recruiters often include questions that find out whether:

  • you can do the job
  • you want the job
  • you want to work for the organisation

See our example questions below.

Get feedback

The Careers Service can provide feedback on application forms through online and in-person  guidance appointments with a careers consultant

You can also send your application form to us for written feedback. This can take up to 5 working days, so please ensure there’s plenty of time for us to respond before the application deadline.

Click on 'Queries’ in MyCareer (top right-hand corner) to submit your query and application form. Please also include a copy or link to the job description/person specification.