How do employers judge application forms?

With a long list of candidates to vet on top of an already busy day job, most employers are looking to discard any candidates that aren’t up to the mark as quickly as they can. Here are three sure signs an application is only fit for the recycling:  

Poor presentation

If you are filling out a paper application form, a prospective employer will be delighted to find a scruffy application full of crossings-out, because that’s one less form they have to deal with. Messy handwriting is another reliable recipe for failure, because no busy manager with any sense is going to waste time trying to decipher what you’ve written. Online forms littered with careless spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will likewise land you in the ‘rejected’ pile quicker than you can say ‘Jak robbinSun”. A shoddy form suggests you’ll produce shoddy work generally.

Instructions ignored

Make sure you follow all instructions to the letter. These can include precise details about how to fill in the form, guidance on what to write about, word counts or instructions about attachments. If the form asks you to demonstrate directly how you meet the skills listed – and you don’t – it shows you either don’t have them or can’t read. If the employer has requested a completed application form, and you send it back half-finished, don’t expect them to accept an attached CV instead.  


Even if there is a generous word limit on the form, keep your answers as succinct and relevant as possible, backing up your claims with only the best examples of your experience, not your entire employment history. Save your prospective employer some time and you could save your application. 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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