Online Applications – Where it all begins....
5 TOP HINTS & TIPS TO A STRONGER APPLICATION FORM
Now for some hints and tips to give yourself the best chance to progress through the application screening stage...
1. BASIC ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS – as mentioned in part 1 of the blog article, there are basic eligibility questions that will form the foundation on whether your application progresses or not. These will generally be automated – that is , you will be ruled in or ruled out based on your responses before an employer even reviews your application. Be aware of minimum criteria (such as residency status, GPA level, degree relevance and degree completion date requirements)
TIP – review these requirements PRIOR to completing any application form. This will save you time and effort up front and will avoid being let down if / when you get a negative response upon completion.
2. MULTI-CHOICE / DROP-DOWN OPTION QUESTIONS - Then there are other questions which can include a range of areas such as:
- Related or unrelated work experience
- Extra-curricular activities / volunteer experience
- Student societies / associations
- Preferences regarding role, location & job-related flexibility
Your answers to these types of questions can be ‘weighted or ranked’ by employers to differentiate candidates. Generally, the higher the quantity or quality of your answers, the higher the ranking.
TIP – Spend a good amount of time on these questions. Because they are generally ‘weighted or ranked’ by employers, you want to include the honesty and depth to your answers. Strong answers here will generally get you through the first stage, depending on the application pool. Be aware of your experience, association and involvement in areas outside of your studies so you can include as much breadth to your profile as possible at this stage.
3. BEHAVIOURAL BASED / FREE TEXT QUESTIONS – these are questions which require you to write free text answers, more like an interview question “tell me about a time when...” or “Explain a situation where you...” Your answers will be measured on your quality of experience, what you have learnt and how you have structured your answer.
TIP – Your responses to these questions are critical. Its the only chance any employer has an insight into your thinking, grammar, spelling and experiences in an non-prescriptive structure.
- Structure your answers using the interview STAR technique if applicable
- Write concisely, accurately and check your grammar and spelling
- Don't use abbreviations, slang or informal language
- Show them more of who you are, including your experiences and breadth of knowledge
4. SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS – Usually a resume (or CV) and academic transcript will be requested. Ensure that you include copies of these if they are required. The form will usually confirm whether they are ‘mandatory’ or not to include. It’s obviously good policy to have a resume ready for recruitment season anyway as most employers will require this as a supporting document.
TIP – Its a common misconception that a resume / CV is more critical to your total application than the application form itself. The reason this is not the case is because it is much more efficient (and equitable) to compare common questions, rankings and weightings in a form than tailored resumes of individuals. A resume is important, but it will not usually be used to measure your suitability in the initial screening phase.
5.COMPLETION & DEADLINES – Usually an application form will take you anything from 10 minutes to 45 minutes to complete. Most systems will allow you to ‘save and complete later’ by giving you a login. Possibly, the biggest frustration from an employer perspective at this stage is incomplete applications - great candidates who haven’t completed their form at time of closing.
TIP – the key here is to be aware of the application deadline. Allow yourself days or weeks to prepare or think about any of the content that may be required. Understand what questions are mandatory and what are not and plan accordingly. Dont be one of those candidates who emails an employer at 2am the morning after they realise the deadline expired at midnight. Get the information you need and complete the form accordingly. Also, confirm that you have ‘submitted’ the form once complete and that you can confirm it has been received by the employer – this will usually come in the form a confirmation email or comment from the employer’s recruitment system.
These are just a few of the pitfalls and tips to ensuring that you can successfully navigate the online application journey. Always invest the time and accuracy to complete any job application.