If you’re applying for jobs then you will have discovered that filling out application forms can take a lot of time and effort. Effective preparation and doing your research will help you to stand out from the crowd though – here are a few tips to help you along the way!

Get the basics right

This might seem obvious but it’s easy to miss little mistakes. Make sure that you follow all of the instructions provided by the employer, stay within the word count, and check your spelling and grammar.  Employers say small grammatical or spelling errors are one of the main reasons applicants are rejected at the first stage so it’s worth getting right.

Why do you want to work for the employer?

This is a question that most application forms will include. Be careful not to reiterate quotes from the organisation’s publicity; make your answer personal. If you do want to include some key information from their website explain why this stands out to you and how it marries with your abilities or interests. This is your opportunity to show that you’ve done your research and to highlight specific things that matter to you. Avoid all the clichés regarding reputation, size, and global reach – many candidates will write this, so offering something different gives you an opportunity to shine. Try to find a link between what they you do and your interests.

Think about how you’ve developed the relevant skills and abilities

It’s likely there will be competency questions or a personal statement that will require evidence of these. Try to vary what you use as evidence, drawing on your education and any work experience, extra-curricular activities like sports or societies, volunteering, or personal achievements you have. Consider what you’ve done that might differentiate you from other candidates. If you have an experience that’s particularly relevant to the job then you may find yourself using it more than once – this isn’t a problem but try not to use it every time.

Use the STAR structure

Remember to ensure you have the right level of detail when you’re writing about your skills and abilities. The STAR structure (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) is a good way to ensure that you do. How much to write for each? Probably as follows:

  • Situation 10%
  • Task 10%
  • Action 70%
  • Result 10%

So, if you’re asked about your problem solving skills spend 10% of your answer describing the situation (the problem) 10% describing the task (what you needed to do), 70% running through the actions (that you took to solve the problem), and then 10% summarising the result.

Personal statements

If you’re writing a statement rather than answering separate questions then consider breaking it up either using headings or at least into short paragraphs. Try to avoid having large chunks of text. Use the phrasing in the job description and person specification as a guide to what’s important and what headings you could use.

Save a copy!

Most online systems will allow you to retrieve your application but save your own copy just in case. If you’re called for an interview then it’s a useful reminder of what you wrote and what information the employer has.

Come and see us/use our resources

LSE Careers is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 5pm (and on Thursday evening until 8pm). We’ll be happy to work on your applications with you – just book a one-to-one appointment with one of our careers consultants! You can also get more advice on writing effective application forms from us online.