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Guide to completing an excellent engineering job application
If you’ve ever applied for a permanent job at a large engineering consultancy, chances are you’ve had to fill out an application form. Many large companies use application forms in their recruitment process to help them compare applicants on a like-for-like basis, which can be more difficult and time-consuming to do with CVs. Frustratingly for applicants, it can take a long time to fill out an application form so to make sure you use your time wisely and give yourself the best chance of getting through the next stage, here are some tips on how to successfully complete a job application form.
Before you get started
Preparation is key in completing an application form effectively. Reading up on the application process before you start completing it will help you understand what is expected and how much time you have to submit it. Double check the application closing date so you can allow enough time to plan your answers and fill out the form.
Most application forms are completed online and if this is the case for the job you’re applying for, it’s worth checking if there’s a time limit and whether you can save as you go along or whether you have to fill it out in a single session. If it is a form you download and fill in offline, review the instructions to see if they specify a particular pen colour or format like block capitals. If in doubt, use black ink as this shows up better when scanned or photocopied and will make your application easier to read.
Prepping your answers
If possible, it is best to prepare your answers on a separate document rather than typing or writing directly into or onto the form. Not only will this help you avoid grammatical and spelling errors but it can also help avoid repetition between answers in different sections and allow you to use the most compelling examples for each question. Some applications will specify a word count in certain sections so it might be easier to keep track of this if you prepare your answers separately first.
The first few sections within the application form are likely to ask you about your education and your employment history. As education levels and qualifications differ between countries, it’s good to state the equivalent level or qualification in the country in which the role is based. If you have any gaps in your employment history, it is important to explain them – otherwise, the employer may well stop reading your application.
Generally it is the latter sections which require a bit more thought as they give you a chance to really sell your skills and give the employer a better impression of what you will bring to the role. In your preparation for these competency-based sections, a good place to start is re-reading the job description. Highlight the key responsibilities and analyse what skills you think the employer is looking for. You can then use these notes to steer your answers, showing how you’re the right person for the role. Rather than just saying what you did, back up your answers with relevant examples of why and how you did something. You may find it useful to use the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result:
- Situation: Explain the situation you were in
- Task: Briefly describe what you had to do, even if it was part of a wider group effort
- Action: This is the main part of your answer where you should say what you did, why, how and the skills you used to get it done
- Result: How did your efforts pay off? Describe the outcome and if you would do anything differently to approach the task and situation in the future.
Employers will be most impressed with answers which are clear, honest and relevant to the question and the job. Ultimately, if they can see quickly why your experience and skills make you a perfect match for the role then you are more likely to be shortlisted for interview. Don’t assume that the employer will have a copy of your CV; instead make sure your application form stands on its own merits.
Stop before you submit
Filling out an application form takes time and can be a tiring process. To make sure your efforts don’t go to waste, spend a bit more time thoroughly checking it before you press submit. A simple mistake or ambiguity could be the reason an employer puts your application on the ‘no’ pile.
In summary, before you press send:
Check for spelling and grammar mistakes – don’t rely solely on a spell checking programme as it won’t always pick up an incorrect word choice if it’s spelt correctly. Read each line to check your answers; saying ‘I’m a great analyse’ rather than ‘analyst’ won’t help your cause.
- Ask someone else to read through your application to see if they spot any mistakes or notice anything that is unclear
- Check your formatting – are your answers laid out well and easy to read? For an online application, consider the font, spacing and layout.Ensure you’ve provided the correct contact details for the employer to get hold of you on
- Make sure you’re sending the application to the right person (if specified). Does any supporting documentation need to be submitted alongside it?
- Lastly, save, scan or print a copy of your application for future reference
For more advice on applying for jobs, interviews and progressing your career, please visit our career advice pages.
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