Making your online job application stand out


More candidates are rejected at the application stage than at any other point in the selection process. While for some jobs you will be asked to send a CV and cover letter, most of the larger placement and graduate recruiters require you to complete an online application. This allows them to collect information about applicants in a standard format and to process the data more efficiently.

Although completing applications can take up a lot of time, it pays to invest the effort in order to do yourself justice. It’s better to do fewer applications of a high quality than several weak ones.



What information will I be asked to include?

In addition to providing biographical data (education, work experience, awards & achievements) you are likely to be asked competency-based questions linked to the job requirements and also to explain your motivation for the role and the organisation.


How can I prepare?

Research the organisation and the job via their website and social media, talk to their representatives when they come on campus to attend Recruitment Fairs and deliver talks and workshops. Find out about events run by the Careers Team here.

Find out about the organisation’s culture and values.

Carefully study the vacancy advert, job description and person specification; the latter is especially helpful in establishing the essential and desirable skills required for the role.

Read the whole form before you start if you can, so you can plan what to include where.


What about competency questions?

When answering these type of questions the key is to ensure that you provide specific examples of times when you have demonstrated the particular skills sought whether through work experience, study or extra- curricular activities. You can use the STAR technique to frame answers to these type of questions which usually have a word limit. See our leaflet for more details.

You don’t have to use every single word available to you but you should be relatively close to the word count. Focus on answering the questions and avoid waffling or being too vague. When describing what you’ve done use active verbs (eg, ‘planned’, ‘organised’, ‘negotiated’, ‘improved’) and keep your sentences short and to the point. Find out more about Effective Writing.


Any other tips?

In most cases you can save work as you go along so you don’t have to complete the form in one sitting but always be sure to check before you start.

It’s often easiest to type your answers in a word document rather than directly into the web browser before copying and pasting them into the application form but always ensure that the formatting looks right.

It may seem surprising but employers report high levels of poor spelling & grammar. Always print the form off and check for any mistakes before pressing the send button and keep a copy of the application for reference.

Overall it’s essential to be convincing in demonstrating your knowledge and enthusiasm for the organisation and role and to provide relevant evidence to show that you’re an ideal match for both!


Want to find out more? Have a read of our leaflets on our website.