The Write Way to Get a Job: how to fill in a job application form


The Write Way to Get a JobFilling in a job application form isn’t as easy as it looks, if you want to get an interview. Here’s how to do it right…

It’s increasingly hard to get a job – and a good one – these days, and although there is a lot to consider when you’re looking to get a job, effective business writing plays a major part in helping you succeed. In this series, HTWB columnist Lynn Tulip from Assessment4Potential explains the best ways to express your career information in your CV/résumé.

And if you want to catch up on all the earlier articles in the series, just check out the sidebar to the the right > > > > and they’re all there for you to help yourself.

Here’s Lynn…

Application forms run from one to eight (or more) pages in length.  They are particularly prevalent in, though not unique to, the public sector, and are used for two main reasons:

  1. Employers want to comply with current legislation and therefore because every candidate needs to be considered in the same way, completion of the form makes it easier to compare numbers of different people
  2. An application form can ensure that the organisation obtains information which is often omitted from CVs, such as health, reasons for leaving earlier jobs, etc.

Application forms can often be badly compiled, with the layout and amount of space given to different items poorly thought out.  They can also take a long time to complete.  However, it is important that if you are requested to complete an application form, you do so to the highest possible standard. In order to achieve this you should:

  • Read it through carefully from beginning to end before you begin to write
  • Copy the blank form and practise on the copy; draft all answers until you are satisfied with them, before you put them on the original
  • Complete the form neatly, according to the specific instructions (e.g. block capitals/black ink)
  • If you run out of space on the form, insert additional pages, clearly marked with your name, position applied for, and the question you are answering
  • Keep in mind, and use, key words and phrases which appeared in the advertisement
  • Answer all the questions on the form
  • Ensure you use any sections for free-format additional information to your advantage, by justifying why you are right for the job
  • If you are asked to name referees, ask their permission first
  • Keep a copy of the completed form for your own reference
  • Use a covering letter to restate how your skills and experience meet the employer’s requirements

Now, here are things you must avoid at all costs on job application forms!

Most CV reviewers would find the following unacceptable on an application form:

  • Illegible handwriting
  • Stains and finger marks
  • Colours other than blue or black ink
  • Too many mistakes and crossings-out
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Unanswered questions
  • Answering questions with “Refer to CV”
  • Not signing forms
  • Inadequate supporting information
  • Thoughtless, careless covering letters
  • Omission of reference numbers
  • Not following clearly stated instructions
  • Using too small an envelope
  • Forgetting stamps
  • Writing over the boxes or columns that are for official use only

Let us know of your experiences in filling in job application forms … which approaches you’ve used and how they changed your chances!

The write way to get a job

Lynn Tulip from Assessment4Potential

Watch out for more of Lynn’s tips next week…

Now: let’s make sure you get that job…

“Get That Job” by Lynn Tulip … The art of successful job hunting (print, Kindle)
“Can’t Get That Job?” by Lynn Tulip … Seven killer CV mistakes that destroy your chance of job success (print, Kindle)
“How To Write About Yourself” by Suzan St Maur … how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write INSTANT DOWNLOAD now available!




  1. I would tend to disagree with some of the ‘don’ts’. For example, a lot of employers ask for forms to be sent electronically these days and many people don’t have access to an electronic signature.

    • You are absolutely right Beverly that if the application form is to be submitted online then the caveats will obviously alter however I still say it’s important to follow guidelines, complete all the information as requested and give relevant information that matches the job description.