How to Fill Out Job Applications

Woman talking
Photograph by Ivan Jones

Some job vacancies ask you to submit an application form instead of, or alongside, a CV. Use these guidelines to assist you.

When a company is recruiting for a specific role, they tailor the application form to get exactly the information they need. This helps them judge whether an applicant is suitable for the role. Application forms can be much quicker and easier for employers to process. Reading through CVs is time consuming and does not always give them the details they want.

Most application forms follow the same basic format. They request a lot of the same information you will have on your CV but also include questions that relate directly to the role.

Presenting your skills and experience in the correct way and sticking to space constraints can take time and practice. But once you have completed a few, it becomes easier.

Application form guidelines

Usually you will need to include the following information.

Personal details

Provide up-to-date contact details.


Check to see if they want you to give details in reverse chronological order.

Work experience

  • Plan this depending on how much space the application allows for each job description. If you have the space to describe your key duties in each role include ones that directly relate to the key skills the employer requires. Also describe responsibilities and achievements in your previous roles that match what the employer is looking for. 
  • Give details of as many jobs as you can and try to avoid having gaps in your employment record. Even if some jobs aren’t relevant to the role you are applying for it shows that you are a hardworking.

Competency questions

Often you will be asked questions to assess your suitability for the role. This can be tricky to answer but it is also a good opportunity to stand out from other applicants.
Read each question carefully to establish what they require.

Common questions are:

“Give an example of your ability to prioritise”
Whenever possible, include information and examples from your work experience. If you have handled various tasks at once and prioritised them you should explain what the tasks were and how you prioritised them on your own initiative.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Sometimes they ask difficult questions which have no easy direct answer.. it is good to include a weakness because it shows that you are a real human being. But do try to end your answer on a positive note.

Other information section

  • This is a good opportunity to highlight why you are right for the role and to give more details about yourself. 
  • Include relevant information which you were unable to add in the rest of the application form. 
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, and make sure that you show your enthusiasm for the role.

Different types of application forms

Online application forms

  • Write your copy offline and paste it in to the application form when you are happy with it.
  • Back up your content wherever you’re writing it.
  • Keep a safe record of any usernames or passwords you have used. 
  • Remember to take a copy of everything before you hit “send”, just in case you aren’t able to access it online later.

Offline application forms

  • Make a copy of a handwritten application form and practice filling it in before attempting the real thing.
  • Neatness is important, so use a good quality pen which doesn't smudge easily, and write as clearly as you can.

Application checklist

Small details can make a large impression. Read the instructions carefully before you start; this will save you time and help you avoid making mistakes.

Have you left any blanks?

Fill in every section unless it is clear that it does not apply to you. In this case write: “N/A” (not applicable).

Check your spelling

Check grammar and capitalisation carefully, and get a second person to proofread it.

Should you fill it out in capital letters or in title case?

Some application forms request that you only use capital letters.

Does it state what coloured ink you should use?

Hard copy forms usually state whether you need to use black or blue ink.

Check when the application submission date is

You don’t want to spend hours filling in a form only to discover that it should have been sent the previous day.