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Essential Job Application Tips

job application tips

There’s really no disputing the fact that job application forms are a nuisance. They’re long, they’re dull, they ask questions you can’t really answer and others you’d rather not. But at the same time, they’re also part and parcel of the whole recruitment process and one there’s no getting away from. The dictionary definition of a necessary evil, if you like.

Of course, the switch to digital applications has certainly made life easier – largely ruling out having to start again following the identification of a careless error. Nevertheless, this transition hasn’t made it any easy to know what to say. If anything, recruiters are actually more demanding than they’ve ever been, since making the switch to online applications.

Exactly what constitutes ‘getting it right’ will always vary massively from one application to the next. But at the same time, there are certain universally-applicable rules, tips and guidelines to follow, in order to improve your chances of success. Below find essential job application tips.

Fitting the Description

For example, the single most important thing any candidate can do prior to getting started is to read the job description several times over. The reason being that the whole point of the application is to show the recruiter how you fit this description to the letter.

If you aren’t 100% familiar with the job description, you can’t expect demonstrate you’re the ideal candidate for the job…which you probably aren’t.

The application form is your chance to begin selling yourself to the employer, which above all else means following a few simple yet crucially important rules, which are:

  • Read all questions in full and consider what it being asked before answering. If there are any sub-questions, ensure that these are also answered in full.
  • Be mindful of all instruction including what to write, where to write it, how to write it and so on. Careless errors do not sit well with recruiters.
  • Manually check your spelling and grammar along with using automated tools. If possible, have your application proofread by at least one other person.
  • Be cautious when copying and pasting text into multiple applications. If it’s obvious this is what you’ve done, you’ll be rejected.
  • Edit your answers down until they are concise, succinct and relevant. Anything that doesn’t need to be said should be removed.
  •  Avoid anything generic or copied verbatim from books or the internet. Recruiters can spot this kind of laziness a mile away and you won’t get away with it.

Personal Details and Education

The simplest parts of the application to fill in are the factual parts. You’ll be asked about your education and for your personal details – all of which requires no real creativity or thought. When listing your education however, it’s a good idea to be mindful of what is and isn’t relevant, in accordance with the job.

For example, if you’re applying for a role in tourism and have a relevant degree, your GCSE in biology probably doesn’t need to be highlighted too prominently.

Probing Questions

Both in your application form and in any interviews that follow, you will almost certainly be asked the same question – ‘why do you want to work for us?’ Make no mistake about it, this is just the kind of question that can make or break your application.

In justifying your interest and your decisions, it is crucially important to stay away from anything negative. You hate your current job, you don’t like the people that work there, you don’t get enough etc. – all examples of what not to say. Keep it positive, talk about your desire to improve and focus on your future development, not what you’ve been unhappy with to date.

As for your reasons for choosing the company, it’s not necessary to go over the top with gushing complements or your plans for future executive status. Think instead about what you can do for them (as opposed to the other way around) and be sure to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of both the business and the industry
  • Explain how your experience and expertise make you the candidate for the job
  • Make it clear that the business suits your long-term career goals, rather than simply being a stepping-stone
  • Show enthusiasm to train, develop and expand your abilities on an ongoing basis

Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the most difficult questions tends to be that which asks you to describe your strengths and weaknesses. After all, who wants to start outlining their negatives to a potential employer? Strengths tends to be an easy one to nail – anything about your skills, experience and qualities in general that make you right for the job. Weaknesses, on the other hand, can cause problems.

The best way of approaching it is to think not of your weaknesses, but of areas for development in a professional capacity. If for example you’re a little on the shy side, you could say that you need to work on your assertiveness. If your mathematic skills aren’t the best, highlight this as something you intend to work on. Recruiters aren’t so much interested in weaknesses, as they are indications that candidates are committed to improving themselves.

Open Questions

It can also be tricky to know exactly what to say when presented with an overly-open question. This often happens at the end of the application, when you may be asked to ‘Enter any additional information of relevance’. While you are under no obligation to enter information at all, it’s a good idea to think carefully about anything of value you’d like to share.


If you have multiple references available who are willing to say something positive about you, be mindful of their position with respect to the position you are applying for. If for example you’re applying for an academic position, an academic reference will carry more weight. If you’re applying for a business role, a business reference may have more pulling power.

Employment Gaps

If there are any glaring gaps in your education or employment history, it’s wise to provide some kind of explanation, rather than leaving large empty spaces on your application. The reason being that if you don’t tell the recruiter anything about what you were doing during this time, chances are they’ll assume the worst.

Important Additional Tips

Last but not least, a few supplementary tips that should be followed to the letter when making any job application:

  • Never lie or embellish too deeply – it could cost you your job
  • Don’t mention anything in your application that you aren’t happy to be questioned on during subsequent interviews
  • Avoid applying for multiple positions with the same company, as this will suggest that you don’t really know what you want or where your skills lie
  • Always follow up your application with a call, email or visit to the employer in the days following submission, just to check it was received

Good luck!