Top 10 Application Form Fails!

Completing job applications are easy right? Then why do so many get rejected regardless of whether the content matches the criteria or not?

There is an art to completing a job application form. It’s not just about putting some words down on a page. This is your opportunity (probably your only one) to match yourself to the job in question. So, what do you need to watch out for to make sure your application gets you to the next stage?

Take a look at our top 10 application form fails to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap!

And don’t forget, Career Fancy offers support with job application forms and CV’s. See more here.


Not Reading the instructions sent in the covering material

This may seem like an obvious one. However, it’s truly amazing how many applicants just dive straight into the form without checking what the full application process is. For example, what is the cut-off date to get the application in? Should your personal statement go on the form or in a covering letter? Do you even need a covering letter? All this is usually explained in the instructions for completing the forms.


Not keeping to the Person/Job Specification

This is another common mistake made by applicants. The opportunity to write about how you match the person/job specification is often seen as a green light by applicants to write just about everything under the sun. All their previous experiences and wants and desires get thrown down onto the page, completely missing the need to keep their responses concise and to the point.


Not using the right examples of previous experience against the person specification

Didn’t we just mention this one above? Well yes and no. Yes, it’s about the fact many applicants complete nonsense in the sections that ask them to match their experience to the vacancy specification. But it’s also about how the applicant matches their previous experience to what is required for the vacancy. For instance, have they really thought long and hard about the examples they should use for each point on the person/job spec? Do examples they have used make sense? And most important of all, will the employer be able to clearly ascertain how well the match is to the role they have on offer?


Not using headings correctly

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the poor employer who has to go through countless applications. Don’t forget, application forms tend to be far longer than just a 2-sided CV and brief covering letter. Therefore, just writing one long essay is going to give them a real headache as they try and find the relevant bits that they really want to know.

Consequently, it’s essential to give them a hand and make sure you use headings when your person specification. Try to match any headings used in the supporting material you received with the forms. For example, if the person spec mentions “Experience of Microsoft Office programmes required”, then state your knowledge of this programme under a heading ‘Office Applications ‘. This enables the reader to spot the relevant information more easily.


 Too long or too short

This is an easy one to get your head around. Sometimes the information pack that usually comes with the application will stipulate the maximum word count for the person specification content. But sometimes it won’t. This then gives the applicant a dilemma of not knowing how much to write. This shouldn’t really be a problem as long as the applicant remembers to keep to the specific element of the person spec that needs to be met. Try to resist talking about non-relevant experience. There’s always the opportunity to mention some of this in a final paragraph or at interview.



Probably not. Of course, there will be scenarios where this may be the only option. Not everyone has access to a desktop or laptop. Plus trying to complete a complicated application form on a mobile phone (no matter how smart it is) is only going to be a pain. But for those who have no alternative, your handwriting must be neat. You’ll probably need to write out what you want to say at least once before you complete the form to check spelling and grammar mistakes etc. A handwritten application covered with copious amounts of correction fluid does not give off a good look regardless of the content.



Speaking of Tipex, the importance of not getting the spelling and grammar correct cannot be underestimated. Being able to spell and group words together correctly is assumed, irrespective of the type of vacancy on offer. And to be honest, is there any excuse for getting things like this wrong these days? With spell check facilities available on any device and free grammar checking programmes easily accessible on the internet, is there really excuse for getting this stuff wrong? And of course, if you can’t use these programmes directly onto the form that’s being completed, then cutting and pasting is the way around this.


References –Get this one right!

Referring back to the first point – read the instructions. What does the application instructions say about completing the reference section? Have you ticked the right box? Are you prepared for your referees to be contacted before an interview or only after you’ve been offered the role? It seems obvious thinking about it now. Still, it’s incredible the number of applicants who tick the wrong box or don’t it at all. Why? It just shows you cant follow instructions!


 Making stuff up 

Oh, yes, it does happen – too often. But why? Well, in most cases, it’s where the applicant’s previous experience doesn’t match what is required. So instead of having knowledge of a particular piece of software, the applicant will make it up in the hope they won’t get caught out. Which they will of course if they get asked a question about it at interview or god forbid have to do some form of exercise using the software in question. Worst still is once they get the job and then it becomes apparent they can’t do it. Probation periods are there for a reason!


Research, Research, Research!

You can only get so much from a vacancy application pack. The information about the company or organisation is only going to show the employer in a positive light. But doing research on the company can show up interesting points you can use to your advantage when completing the application form. For example, if in the news, the organisation you’re applying to has been criticised recently for slow growth rates. Then emphasising in great detail previous examples of your selling or marketing prowess (if those are the type of roles you’re going for) would stand you in good stead. Try to ascertain where the organisation is coming from, what are their areas for improvement and emphasis on the form how you think can help plug those gaps.


So, there you go. The Top 10 Fails for you to avoid when completing a job application form. Most of them are obvious. But there’s always one or two that people haven’t thought of. And don’t forget, Career Fancy offers support with job application forms and CV’s. See more here. Spread the word and help a friend or colleague to avoid some of the pitfalls of the application process.

Go Back