Most graduate employers have now embraced the 21st century and have devised fancy online systems for your job applications. Yes, nowadays for many employers a good old honest CV and covering letter simply won’t cut the mustard. Completing an online application form can be an arduous process: hours down the line and you’re only half way through. So we’re here to make the whole process easier and warn you about the common pitfalls of online application forms.
What are online application forms?
Online applications are usually completed through a company’s website. Most of the time, you’ll have to sign in to create your own profile and start your application. There’ll usually be a space to put down your education and employment history and then they’ll give you a number of questions to answer. These are designed to find out whether you have the essentials skills for the role. The important thing to remember about online application forms is that, although the whole process feels very impersonal, your form is eventually going to be read by a member of the recruitment team and therefore it simply has to impress!
Before you start filling it out…
Get to know the application system, scroll through and read all the questions first. Roughly plan out how you’re going to answer each one. After all, you don’t want to repeat yourself.
You might want to draft answers to questions in a Word document first, so you can use the spell check and save it to your computer. This is far better than risking losing everything when you lose your internet connection. Most applications do allow you to save as you go along, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Avoid filling in the form at the last minute; the company’s server might get overloaded, your application might get held up and you might miss the deadline.
How should I answer online job application questions?
These are tricky little things. Make sure you read the questions properly and jot down what you think the question is trying to find out, e.g. what skills are they looking for you to demonstrate?
Treat your answers to the questions like you’re writing a covering letter. Your answer should be targeted at the skills which the job advert or question specifies. Incorporate any keywords that appear in the job advert into your application, such as ‘organised’ or ‘communication skills’. Back your answers up with evidence; for example, if they ask about customer service skills, then give an example of a time you have shown outstanding customer service.
Your actual writing style should be formal, but don’t lose your personal voice in clichéd expressions and formulaic business speak. Think of different ways to structure and formulate your sentences to really show off your writing style. It should be interesting, but economical.
How long should my online application be?
Sometimes it’s tricky to know how much to write in an online application form, it’s all about finding the balance between writing too much and too little. Some throw you a lifeline and specify how much you should write; otherwise, you can usually deduce the expected length of answer from the space they have given you. As a general rule, write enough to fully answer the question, but keep it succinct. Chop out any superfluous words or over long sentences.
Don’t be lazy…
We don’t know what it is about online application forms, but they seem to inspire a pandemic of laziness. You should put as much effort into it as a covering letter or paper application. That means drafting and re-drafting your answers, getting someone else to go through your answers and checking them yourself too.
You should make sure you’ve fully answered every part of the question, filled in the whole application form and strictly abided by the word limit. Finally, check and re-check your application for spelling mistakes.
Print it out, zoom in on the computer and scour every line for grammatical misdemeanours. No one will be impressed by an application riddled with errors.
Online application forms are a beast to be tamed. As long as you answer the questions fully and don’t fall into any common pitfalls, you’ll (hopefully) be laughing all the way to an interview.