How do you fill in a job application form?

13 Oct 2023, 14:02

Read on for targetjobs’ expert advice for how to fill in a job application form for a graduate role including tips to write a strong application.

The graduate's guide to job application forms

Submitting an initial job application is the first step in securing a graduate role. To do this, you’ll have to fill in an application form – most likely an online form. In this guide, targetjobs provides you with top tips for filling in an online job application form and pointers to help you stand out to graduate recruiters.

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What should be included in a graduate job application form?

The information that you include when filling in a graduate job application form will depend on the type of form used by the employer. There are two main types of graduate job application forms. These are a ‘traditional’ application form and a strength-based application form. Both types of forms ask for:

  • personal information including your name and contact details
  • details about your education
  • details of any work experience (including part-time jobs, internships, insight days and volunteering).

A ‘traditional’ job application form can also ask you application questions and request a CV and, sometimes, a covering letter. Application form questions usually ask about your skills, experience or motivation for applying to assess your suitability for the role.

Find out how to answer job application form questions here.

Strengths-based application forms do away with questions and CV/covering letter requests. Instead of assessing you via focusing on your written reasons for applying and your previous experiences, employers focus on how well you perform during their online strengths tests. These tests typically form the next stage of the application process for a graduate role and are likely to include scenario-based assessments. You can learn all about online tests for graduate jobs including scenario-based assessments in targetjobs’ guide to psychometric tests .


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What steps do you take to fill in a graduate job application form?

Take the following steps to ensure you complete your job application form correctly.

  1. Research the employer
  2. Organise your documents
  3. Update your CV and LinkedIn profile
  4. Use the right device and pick a suitable location
  5. View all application form sections before starting
  6. Follow all instructions
  7. Use a word processor app
  8. Tailor your application
  9. Proofread your application
  10. Do a final check before submitting
  11. Save a copy
  12. Practise online tests

Research the employer

The very first step in writing a strong graduate job application is researching the employer. Learning about the employer and role will help inform what you include in your covering letter and how you respond to any application questions or behaviour-based psychometric tests.

Dig around the employer’s recruitment website (if it has one) to read about its values and culture and the role you want to secure. Also browse its corporate website to learn about its clients, products and/or services. And, do wider internet searches to gain commercial knowledge about the organisation. Check out our article on how to research a company for a graduate job for more tips.

Organise your documents

Save all the documents you’re going to need to submit the job application form together in a file. This will make finding a document when it’s time to input information much easier. Make sure to include:

  • academic transcripts
  • an image of your identification document (passport or driving licence)
  • national insurance number
  • contact details for anyone who has agreed to act as your referee
  • your CV.

Update your CV and LinkedIn profile

An online application system may give you the option of having your contact, academic and work experience information extracted automatically from your CV or LinkedIn profile. Therefore, ensure that your CV and LinkedIn are up to date and accurate. Otherwise, it won’t save you any time at all…

You must check the information the system extracts carefully to make sure that the right information is in the right sections, that the information is formatted correctly, and that the system has selected everything relevant. See our guides on CV FAQs answered and creating the perfect LinkedIn profile to ensure yours are spick and span.

Use the right device and pick a suitable location

Even though online job application forms are designed to be completed anywhere, apply and take tests on a laptop or a device with a ‘proper’ keyboard, if possible. This will make it less likely that you will select the wrong answer on a touch screen or make typos by mistake.

Complete your application, too, in a quiet place free of distractions. After all, if you select the wrong option or perform badly on the tests, your application could be rejected.

If you can, view all of the sections of the form before you start

When you access the job application form, you should be able to click on and view each section before you start inputting information. Take a good look through and, if there are areas of potential overlap, plan what you should put where.

This might be the case, for example, if you are asked a question about why you are applying to that employer but you are also required to submit a covering letter explaining your motivations for applying for a specific role.

Follow all instructions

Adhere to all instructions contained in the form. If not, you may not be able to progress through the form or submit it. Not following the instructions can also signal to the employer that you are not capable of doing so. Following instructions includes sticking to stipulated word counts for any questions and uploading any documents in the requested format.

Use a word processor app

Use an app such as MS Word or Google Docs to type your answers to application form questions and then copy and paste them into the form, checking the formatting. This will help to ensure that you don’t include any typos in your answers.

Tailor your application to the employer

If you upload a CV, covering letter or write answers to any questions, then the information you provide should be tailored to the employer.

Your CV should echo the language used in the employer’s recruitment advertisement or job description – especially details of any work experience. This will be helpful if the online application system scans for keywords, but it will also help demonstrate to a 'human recruiter' that you are a good fit for the role.

For example, if the employer has asked for analytical skills instead of problem-solving abilities, make sure you explain how you used your analytical skills to solve problems, not just how you solved problems. Read the targetjobs complete guide to CV writing for in-depth CV advice and examples.

When answering application form questions or writing a covering letter, you’ll need to connect your research into the employer and the role with your motivations for applying. You also need to ensure that responses to questions address the specific questions being asked and not a similar sounding question you’ve been asked elsewhere.

Proofread your application

Proofread any typed answers and documents to upload (such as your CV) before uploading them to root out any final typos or grammatical errors. This is important: the standard of your written communication will help determine your credibility as a suitable candidate for the role. Also try to have someone else proofread your answers and documents as they will likely spot errors that you haven’t.

Don’t press 'complete' on a section until you’ve checked it

Being able to save and return to your application later is a standard feature of many application forms. However, for some systems, marking a section as ‘complete’ may submit the section and you won’t be able to amend the information it contains. So, make sure you check each section of the form carefully before you click ‘complete’ or ‘submit’ .

Particularly check:

  • Spelling and grammar: despite using a word processor app and proofreading, you may spot final errors that slipped through.
  • References to the employer’s name: is the name spelled correctly?
  • Your contact details: do you need to include both a term-time and home address and telephone contacts, and is your email address appropriate?
  • If you have included all of the information the employer has asked for in the way that it has asked for it. For example, if the employer has requested for your work experience details to appear in a certain format or if it wants a breakdown of your degree modules.

Save a copy

Some application systems will allow you to print your form, email a copy to yourself or to save it as a PDF as you submit it. But in case they don’t, take a copy as you go along. You might want to copy and paste sections into an MS Word document (or similar), save them as PDFs or take a photo or screengrab of each section.

Whatever you choose to do, keep your copy safe: you will need to refer to your application if you are invited to an interview.

Get online tested

If the employer includes some kind of online tests or games-based recruitment exercise as part of their initial application stage, then these will be the major factor deciding whether you get through to the next stage (usually a first interview).

The best way to succeed is to practise as many tests as possible. The employer will usually give you a few ‘warm up’ example questions before you take their tests, but don’t just rely on these. Check out targetjobs’ complete guide to psychometric test for more help getting test-ready.


Looking for tips for applying to a specific sector?

Should I fill out the equality and diversity monitoring form?

An equality and diversity monitoring form includes personal questions asking about your sexual orientation, ethnicity and gender, for example. Employers use these to track how diverse their pool of applicants is so that they can improve their future recruitment strategy.

This section of the application form is not seen by anyone that will assess your applications. You do not have to respond to the equality and diversity monitoring questions if you would feel uncomfortable doing so. If it’s a mandatory section, you can select the ‘prefer not to say’ option.

How do online application forms select candidates?

Many employers reject unsuitable candidates straight away based on screening against set criteria or online test results. This is to make the recruitment process easier for the HR team.

For example, candidates who do not have the right to work in the UK or the required number of UCAS points/degree classification/degree subject will be automatically rejected – as will candidates who score under a set percentage on a psychometric test.

Some organisations use application screening software, meaning that automatically rejected applications won’t be seen by a human recruiter. This is particularly true for the largest big-name graduate employers, who can receive tens of thousands of applications a year.

Bear in mind that a system may be set to fast track your application too. For example, if you have completed work experience with the company or if you have a contact working there, then the system could flag it so that the recruiters can seek references from within the business. So don’t be shy about mentioning any internal contacts if they can give you a positive reference!

What if my application is unsuccessful?

Not all job applications are successful and it’s important not to let a rejection dishearten you. Instead, try to view it as a learning experience. You may be able to receive feedback from the employer about why your application was unsuccessful. You can use this information to inform how you approach your next application. See our article on dealing with job rejection for more guidance.

What if I have mitigating circumstances?

You may not meet all the requirements set out in the job application form due to external factors beyond your control. If you have a good reason why, you can inform the employer of this and they can stop your application being automatically rejected by overriding the system. For example, perhaps you did not achieve the required degree result because of an illness.

Should I disclose a disability?

If a disability or condition would put you at a disadvantage in the application form (eg in a timed online ability test), consider telling the recruiter so that they can make reasonable adjustments to ensure that you are assessed fairly. The employer may have an alternative recruitment method that won’t put you at a disadvantage.

How do I contact a recruiter about my application?

Many large employers advise you on how to contact them about disclosing a disability or mitigating circumstances on their graduate recruitment webpage and some have a box to tick or ask you to fill in details on their online forms. However, if in doubt, before you begin your application, email or call the recruiters and they will explain how to proceed.

For more in-depth advice on job applications and what happens next, you can read about the graduate recruitment process and what it entails.

More job applications help from targetjobs

Head to the ‘ CVs, applications and tests’ section of targetjobs for all our advice on making job applications. And don’t forget to create your free targetjobs graduate profile . You’ll get tailored advice content based on the career interests you share with us. Plus you can also follow your favourite employers from their targetjobs organisation hub to get all of their latest content and career opportunities on our platform.

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