Application forms

Get tips on filling out electronic and hardcopy job application forms.

Many people try to rush when filling in job applications – make sure you allow enough time to prepare, fill in the form and check it before you submit it.  

Four steps to great application forms

  1. Prepare – get together all your documents and an up-to-date CV.
  2. Read the form carefully and note what it asks you to do – if you don’t follow all the instructions, employers may reject your application.
  3. Fill in the form.
  4. Check the form and, if possible, ask someone else to proofread your work. 

Promote yourself through your answers

Ensure that you highlight what you have gained from previous experience – refer to any in-service training, projects or responsibilities that show you have reached a certain level of competence.

Try to answer all the questions, even if you think they are irrelevant or repetitive.

Most application forms leave a large blank space where they ask you to say something about your reasons for applying and what you can bring to the job. Make full use of this space – if you only write a couple of lines you have lost a golden opportunity to promote yourself and say what interests you about the job and the company.

Prepare thoroughly before you start filling in the form

Make sure you have everything you might need, including:

  • a CV, tailored to the job and saved in an appropriate format. It is a good idea to use your name and the job title in the file name when you save it
  • details of qualifications, what you've studied and NCEA levels
  • dates of current and previous employment and employers’ names
  • a cover letter
  • an appropriate email address.

If you have to upload documents, make sure they are in a suitable format, such as .doc, .txt, .pdf or .rtf.

You may be asked to provide your:

  • address
  • date of birth
  • citizenship
  • reasons for leaving your current job.

Electronic job application forms 

Many job applications are done online using one or more of these options:

  • emailing your cover letter and CV
  • downloading a form to fill out, and then uploading it to a website
  • filling in a web-based application form, which may be several screens
  • registering with a website using social media information from, for example, a Facebook or LinkedIn account
  • creating an online account with a job board or company. Some companies profile those who register with them and send notifications when suitable vacancies arise.

Filling in the electronic form

When you have everything assembled, go to the website and read all the instructions provided with the application form.

  • Register and log in, if required, and save a copy of your username and password somewhere secure.
  • Some electronic applications include online tests so be prepared!
  • If possible, download a copy of the form and practise filling it out.
  • Fill in the form following all instructions on the screen. 
  • Save your work if the program allows you to.
  • Have a document open on your computer and copy and paste everything you’re filling in online as you go. Save your document when you have finished filling out the form, so you have a record of what you have said in your application.
  • When you have finished filling in the form, check your work and ask someone else to also check it.
  • Submit the application.

Tips for getting your CV through an online application system

It's important that you always check the position description for the job as some employers use computerised search programs to check CVs, looking for specific words from that description, and discard CVs that do not contain the correct keywords. This makes tailoring your CV to each job even more important.

Find and use relevant keywords

Keywords are words that the computer program searches for, and include:

  • job titles and alternatives
  • names of the main tasks of the job
  • names of systems or programs that would be used in the job.

Use the keywords, descriptions and success criteria that are in the position description for the particular job. For instance:

  • if the position description says "good with people" use that wording, but if it says "interpersonal skills" use that wording instead
  • if the position description asks for experience with a particular software program, mention it by name.

Save your CV in a web-friendly format

Make sure your CV format is suitable by:
  • putting your contact details at the top of your CV, not in the header or footer
  • formatting your employment history – start with the employer name, job title and the dates of your employment
  • summarising your key skills. Use bullet points and make sure you prioritise them in descending order of relevance for the job
  • including memberships to industry organisations
  • not using images, tables, abbreviations or fancy formatting.

Do use:

  • plenty of white space
  • a file extension such as .doc, .txt, .pdf or .rtf when you save the document.

Don’t use:

  • boxes or shading 
  • fancy fonts 
  • formatting such as bold, italic or underline.

Keep in mind that your formatting may be lost when opened by the job advertiser’s computer, or it may be so slow to open that they discard it. So, keep it basic and clear.

Keep a nicely formatted print version for taking in person or for jobs where you have to post your CV. 

Hardcopy (paper) job application forms

  • Make a photocopy of the form to practise on and keep a copy of your answers. Get someone to check your draft copy for errors.
  • When you're ready, use dark ink and clean white paper as the employer may wish to photocopy the form.
  • Follow the instructions and try to complete all sections.
  • Write clearly and neatly and make sure your spelling is correct.
  • If English is not your first language, get an English speaker to read over your application. If there are errors, rewrite it rather than make corrections on the form - messy applications give a poor impression.

Updated 15 Jun 2016