Careers and Employability Service

Application forms

An application form may be your first point of contact with an employer. Employers often receive hundreds of application forms and may spend only a few seconds reading each one. Therefore, their first impressions must be positive. A good application form takes a considerable amount of time to complete and this should be evident to the person reading it. It should be well thought out and properly constructed.

The purpose

  • To enable an employer to determine your suitability for the opportunity that you are applying for.
  • To find out how and where you have acquired the skills the employer is looking for. The majority of questions on an application forms are competency based.
  • Application forms are the ideal opportunity to make you stand out against all others who are applying for the same role. The graduate market is currently one of the most competitive. A carefully completed application form can help you obtain an interview or an invitation to an assessment day.

What are competencies?

Competencies are the skills, knowledge or attributes that are required to perform a certain role (such as teamwork, communication or leadership). Employers are looking to match their requirements with evidence that you have these competencies.


  • Research the company or organisation using resources such as: the company/organisation website; news articles or social media. For more information about how to best research and improve your commercial awareness.
  • Research the job to find out about the necessary requirements and person specification – read the supporting company literature, visit their website, read the appropriate occupational profile.
  • Read each question carefully and fully understand what you need to include within your answer. Some questions may have multiple parts that you will need to cover in your answer.
  • Check the word limit; this is always a good indication of how long your answer should be. Do not go over – most online forms will automatically cut your answer off past the stated limit.
  • Make sure you comply with instructions, e.g. write in black ink, or use capitals if requested.
  • Adapt any information you cut and paste from previous applications very carefully so it fits the job you are applying for. Wholesale ‘cutting and pasting’ from previous applications will tend not to lead to a successful outcome.


  • Plan your answers before you start writing.
  • The questions may ask you to illustrate your skills (Leadership, Team work, Communication) so think of some examples of where you will have demonstrated these (such as work experience, university experiences, volunteering, the Leicester Award, internships, interests, hobbies).
  • Develop your answers so that they are positive and appear enthusiastic.
  • Ensure that you answer each question and do not leave any blanks - blank answers often lead to automatic rejection of the whole application form

Writing your first draft

Make sure that each answer has a clear structure, so that the employer can easily recognise that you are addressing the question. For competency questions we suggest using the STARS technique.

Proof-reading and amending

After all the time and effort you have spent developing your answers, it would be a shame for you to submit it before you have proof-read it and thoroughly checked it. To make absolutely sure, get someone else to read it – the best of writers miss mistakes in his/her own work due to familiarity with the text. Another good idea for application forms in particular is to keep a copy in Word as many online forms will not have a spell-check option.

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