If you are looking for a job in the UK, whether as a foreigner wishing to relocate, or as a British national, you may find yourself faced with having to fill in a job application form.
What is the difference between an application form and a CV?
When designing your CV, you can choose the layout and, more importantly, what to include and what not to include. For example, if you have been working for more than 10 years, it is common to include only the last 10 years experience on a CV, or if you have changed career, to include only the experience and training relevant to the post for which you are applying. However, in the interests of equal opportunities, a job application form requires every applicant to fill in all of their work and educational experience.
In addition, you will usually be asked to fill in a large blank sheet of paper sometimes referred to as the supporting statement. The directions at the top of this page will ask you to explain why you are suitable for the job. In other words, you must produce a detailed piece of writing selling yourself to the company. This is something which causes panic in many applicants and unfortunately the formula for writing this isn’t taught at school or university.
However, there is a standard approach to writing the supporting statement. First of all, read all the instructions. As well as the information at the top of each page, you will be sent guidelines on how to complete the form. You should read these very carefully and make sure that you follow them exactly. Some companies will ask you to set out the information in a precise way, such as using specific headings, whereas others will allow you to use your own format.
In the latter case, you should use the job description as your guide. Take each of the points in turn and write a short paragraph highlighting your experience in this area. You should use examples, rather than just saying that you have excellent communication skills. Where possible, use figures to illustrate your achievements, such as “increased sales by 25% in my first month”. Use bullets and strong, active verbs to give your application punch.
Write your supporting statement on a separate piece of paper first. Be sure to edit and proofread and when you are satisfied, write it on a photocopy of the original to make sure it will fit. In some cases, you are permitted to add an extra sheet, but only do this if absolutely necessary, that is, if you can’t abbreviate your statement and the additional information is crucial to the application. If you find you have only a few extra lines, go back and cut out anything unnecessary. Remember, employers are busy and don’t want to read pages and pages of information – unless it is highly relevant. Your task is to show them, as concisely as possible, that you are suitable for the job and that you should be on the interview shortlist.
© Waller Jamison 2006