How to Deal with Different Application Forms

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Preparing an application form can often be a daunting process, especially when you have several applications to finish, both those from universities and those from other public sector organisations and private companies. What differences should you be aware of when completing these different application forms? Are there any effective and efficient ways in which you can tailor your skills and experiences to suit these different areas of employment? This article will discuss the different types of application form, highlighting university's and those from other organisations, and suggest some tips to help you make the form-filling process run more smoothly.

The University Application Form

Universities usually practice a standard application process in which an application form can be used for all job vacancies or certain types of job vacancies, i.e. academic, administration, managerial, research, technician, and so on. Therefore, you are often required to indicate the vacancy title and reference number at the beginning of the application form.

University application forms normally require information that can be classified into two main categories: personal data and supporting information.

Personal data can include personal details-names, date of birth, contact details, and sometimes the working/visa status, and equal opportunities-gender, nationality, ethic origin, disability, and so on.

Supporting information can be further categorised into three parts: Educational and Professional History, Personal Statement and References.

Educational and Professional History generally covers: education and qualifications, training development, employment history, and membership of professional bodies. Some application forms only require a chronological list of your education and professional history with dates (from/to), establishment, and outcomes (e.g. results/rewards if it is Education and Qualifications, or reason for leaving if it is employment history), whilst others might require detailed information on subjects in education, and responsibilities in your employment history.

The second part of the supporting information is the Personal Statement, which is also referred to as Supporting Evidence in some application forms. This is the most important section and could be the most difficult part of a university application form. This section allows you to demonstrate your skills and experiences freely by providing as much information as you want; however, it is not the place where you write your own biography. The key is to look at the job advert what the employer is looking for and the ‘Essential and Desirable' table in the job description. Then you should use examples to demonstrate your skills and experiences match their criteria and you are the right candidate for the job.

The last part of the supporting information is references. Some application forms only ask for referees' basic information such as names, companies/institutions, job title, contact details and relationship to the candidate, whilst others ask for more details of referees.

In addition to the requirements above, if the application is for a studentship position, it could also ask you to name the funding sources that you are applying for.

Some institutions do not accept CVs whilst others would like to have your CV attached for additional information.

Other Types of Application Form

Application process from other public sector organisations and private companies ranges from a straightforward CV and covering letter to a well designed and intricate application form. The application format will depend on the type and size of the organisation, the industries they belong to, the types of vacancy they advertise, the recruitment policies they have in place, and the structure of their personnel department. There are four general types of application process summarised below:

Type 1: CV and Covering Letter: simply ask for your CV and a Covering Letter quoting the advert reference by email or by post. Instead of a general CV and covering letter, it is important to tailor them to meet different job requirements.

Type 2: Standard Application Form: it is similar to university's, requiring the basic personal, educational, qualification information, and supporting evidence from a personal statement.

Type 3: Initial Conversation: some organisations do not expose their application process in the advertisement. They want you to make a phone call for an initial conversation so that you can get to know more about the vacancy, and they are able to get to know a bit about you. By this means they are in control of the quantity and quality of the applications they receive. In order to deal with this, you need to be prepared to talk about yourself concisely in the first 30 seconds of the conversation and ask as many questions about the vacancy as you can think of to show the organisation your enthusiasm for the position.

Type 4: Competency-Based Application Form: many commercial companies use are similar to those used by universities but are more specific to the needs of the role that is being applied for. In this kind of application form, in addition to the basic personal information, education and employment history, you are required to demonstrate certain skills and experiences that are desired or expected in the job specification. Where as university application forms usually allow you to demonstrate your strengths freely in the Personal Statement, this kind of commercial application form poses a few specific competency-based questions for you to answer, such as: "Please give an example of how you work in a team/how you have dealt with a difficult problem". Alternatively you may be given a scenario for which you have to present a solution. An example of this is: "If your co-worker has missed a deadline, what would you do?". Usually the competency-based questions appear in the interview stages, however, companies will often utilise them in the application stage so they can filter the number of applications to a manageable size and attract the best candidates from the outset.

Tips for Applying

The essence of completing any application form is to demonstrate that you possess the right skills and qualities for the vacancy in question. In order to do this you should start by analysing yourself without looking at any application forms or job descriptions. Try to paint a complete picture of yourself by writing down all of the skills, qualities, experiences, interests, and other information which you think will let people know more about you. It is very important to back them up with examples from either your professional or personal life. It is possible that you will find one example that will contain several skills and experiences you listed before, but it is important that you include your transferable skills in each of your examples because these are what your future employers want to see. You might like to organise your examples using the STAR model. You can then tailor your examples to different application questions, especially the competency-based questions, or you can organise them into your personal statement. This adaptation of skills and experiences will also help you at the interview stage. You may find it time consuming to write all of these qualities down to begin with, but having completed this task, you will find it easier to tailor them to different application forms and it will save you time in the long run. Moreover, you will be surprised that you know yourself better by painting a picture of yourself, which will also help to build your confidence throughout the entire application process.

For more advice and tips about applying for a job, please read the following articles:

Applying for a Job

Applying for a Job Part 2: CV and Covering Letter

Academic Jobs: How to Complete an Application Form

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