Here we answer some common questions about application forms, including what to put in them, what to leave out and the differences between online and traditional applications.

Why can't I just send a copy of my CV?

If the employer has requested a completed application form, that’s what they want. Don’t be tempted to send back an incomplete application form with your CV attached.

You won’t need a covering letter if there is a section on the application form where you can provide additional info such as why you want to work for them. If there isn’t an additional info section, you could include a covering letter explaining why you want to work for the organisation and what skills and experience you can bring to the job.

What do I say about my reasons for leaving?

It's a good idea to be positive about your reasons for leaving a job, no matter how you feel about employers past or present. Keep your answers short — you'll normally have just a small space next to each job in the work history section.

Typical responses could be:

  • end of fixed term contract
  • career progression
  • redundancy
Can an online application for one job be used for others?

Once you've written one application, you'll be familiar with your skills, experience, strengths and weaknesses. You might also be able to ‘cut and paste’ paragraphs into other applications. But make sure it's relevant and does not mention the wrong employer or job.

Don't be tempted to apply for lots of jobs online just because it is easier. You’re likely to be more successful if you go for jobs you’re genuinely interested in.

Is an online application easier than a paper application?

Completing an online application form takes just as much time and effort as writing a paper application. Avoid using the casual style of language you might use in an email. Do not abbreviate words, and make sure you write complete sentences. Informal language does not create the right impression.

Online application systems vary, so follow instructions carefully. Some allow you to save the form and come back later, but some don’t. Some will not allow you to cut and paste text, or print the form out. Checking these things out at the start will save you from losing your work.

What is equal opportunity monitoring?

Organisations often ask you to fill in an ethnic background form. This is not used for selection and is usually used by the human resources department to check they are receiving applications from all sections of the community.