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Online job applications: 10 tips for success

Insights from The Gateway
Application advice

Nowadays online application forms are the norm.

In this article we cover the ten things graduate recruiters tell us are the most important for you to get right.

1. Do your research

Find out about the firm, the roles it's offering and the eligibility requirements before you start the application. There could be multiple positions open, so make sure you select the right one. Be prepared to elaborate on your reasons for choosing the role and the firm later on.

2. Take your time

Don't rush your applications. They're just as important as your CV and cover letter, if not more so. Allow yourself plenty of time, sit down at a desk to put yourself in the right frame of mind, and do one at a time.

3. Be honest and accurate

Filling out your personal, education and work experience details is tedious. Read each question carefully, don't skip anything, answer honestly and make sure it all lines up with what's on your CV – you may be asked to upload it later in the process.

4. Follow the rules

When answering longer questions, there's usually a maximum character limit or a suggested word count. Don't ignore them! Make the most of your answer by filling the space you've been given, but keep it relevant and waffle-free.

5. Be a STAR

If you're asked situation-based competency questions, such as: "Describe a time when you demonstrated effective leadership," structure you answer clearly by outlining the Situation, Task, Action and Result.

6. Highlight your achievements

Use your answers to tell employers about your skills and qualities. Emphasise your achievements, positions of responsibility, hard work and motivation. Don't be afraid to mention quirky activities and interests – they'll help you stand out from the crowd.

7. Vary your examples

It's important to back up every skill you claim to have with an example of when you've demonstrated it. Sometimes the questions seem to overlap, but try to use a different example for each one, drawing on your experience of university, part-time work, internships and extracurricular activities.

8. Draft your answers

For longer questions, write your answers in Microsoft Word first and take advantage of the spellchecker. Read through each answer, ensure you've answered it fully and check for any mistakes before you write it into the online form.

9. Don't copy and paste

It's tempting to build up a bank of answers from past applications that you can copy and paste into new ones at will. Unless the question is identical, don't do it! Mistakes are too easy to make.

10. Check spelling and grammar

You can usually review each section of your application form before you submit it. Check every answer to make sure it's accurate and free of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Error-ridden applications are often instantly rejected.

Recommended reading

Also see our tips on how to succeed with online application tests.