Careers and Employability Centre

Application forms

Recruiters use application forms to ensure that applicants are judged against the same criteria so that candidates can be shortlisted for interview.

The employer decides on the skills, qualities and experience that they would like their ideal candidate to have and it is your role to show how you meet this criteria by giving examples from your previous experience.

Depending on the employer, you may be asked to complete an application form online, or to download a template in which you can either type or write.

Getting started
Before you begin writing your application, find out about:
  • the role
  • the employer
  • the skills and requirements of the job
  • how you need to apply.

Start your research by reading the job advert, job description and person specification. If you are applying for a graduate scheme, find out about any competencies that the employer is looking for and visit their website to find out more about the company.

Types of questions
Graduate recruiters generally use competency-based questions and motivational questions in their recruitment.

Competency-based questions

These questions are based on the principle that how you behaved in the past is an indicator of how you will behave in the future. Typical competencies might include: teamwork, communication, leadership and motivation. It is your job to give examples of how you have demonstrated these competencies in the past.

Typical questions:

  • Can you tell us about a time when you worked as part of a team?
  • What was your role and what did you do?
  • Can you give us an example of when you showed good communication skills?
Motivational questions

Motivational questions are designed so that the employer can find out more about why you want the role and if you will fit into the organisation.

Typical questions:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What are the major challenges facing our sector currently? Who are our competitors
  • Where do you see yourself in X years’ time?
Filling in a blank form
Some application forms include a blank section where you need to show the employer how you meet the criteria on the job description or person specification. You can do this by using the criteria on the person specification as headings and writing your examples underneath. This will help give your writing structure and make it easier for the person shortlisting to see how you meet the criteria.
Matching your experience to the job
Think about all areas of your life that you can draw on to give examples, e.g. academic studies, extra-curricular activities, part-time work, volunteering, responsibilities at home. In your examples it is also important to show that you understand what the company does and what the job involves, by linking your experience to the role.

Some examples:

  • University presentations are useful for demonstrating communication skills, an ability to communicate complex information and research skills.
  • If you are a member of a University society, you could write about your role and responsibilities, i.e. an events co-ordinator can demonstrate interpersonal skills because the role requires talking to many different people.
  • Part-time work is very useful experience when writing an application. You might have experience dealing with customers, handling money and balancing work with your studies, which are good examples of communication and interpersonal skills, responsibility, and time management.
  • Volunteering is an excellent way to build the types of skills and experience that employers look for.
  • Responsibilities at home, such as caring responsibilities and raising children, are excellent examples of time management.

See our Skills page for help with identifying and evidencing your skills.

Structuring your answers and examples
You can use the STAR model to give your answers a clear and concise structure.

Situation - I worked as an activity leader at a children’s summer camp in America. (What was the occasion/setting?)

Task - There were 10 leaders and due to bad weather we had to come up with a plan to keep the children busy indoors. (What did you need to do?)

Action - I suggested that we brainstorm some ideas and then get into groups of three to spend an hour developing one idea each. I then drew up a rota so that we all knew what we were doing and when. (What did you do? Describe the action you took.)

Result - The extra activities were popular and the other leaders were happy to have shared the workload and limited the amount of additional work.

Disclosing disability or criminal convictions
Most application forms will ask you to complete sections on disability and criminal convictions. Whether to disclose these is a personal decision – you can discuss your options with a Careers and Employability Adviser. You can also read our information on disclosure.


  • Read all the instructions and guidance before you begin filling in an application form ie. word limit; deadline; how you need to send the form. 
  • Write your answers and examples in Word first so that you can check your spelling and grammar.
  • Depending on your application, you may want to send a covering letter with your form ie. if you are sending it via email or post.
  • Save the job description and person specification for future reference, plus a copy of your application.
  • Check your spelling and grammar before you apply!
  • Waiting to hear back about your application? It may take 1-4 weeks to receive an invitation to interview.
  • If you haven't been successful, you can ask for feedback on your application, which will help when you come to make future applications.

How to use us

  1. Come to an Applications workshop


  2. Use our resources to write your application form
  3. Get feedback. Make an appointment or submit online via Ask a Question

Presentation slides on making applications