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Online application forms

Many universities and larger businesses use online applications to assess your skills, motivation and personal qualities. By having all applicants answer the same questions, it is easier to compare them.

Before you start

Create a folder for each application where you keep:

  • The password to the system and your profile
  • The submission deadline
  • Admissions requirements or job qualifications and/or job description
  • A blank copy of the application form
  • Changes you make each time you access the system
  • A completed copy of the application form
  • Your CV and cover letter if you submitted them

While preparing

  • Explore the website of the company, organization or university and find out as much as you can. Your research will make you look smart and motivated.
  • Check whether you are required to complete the application in one session or whether you can make changes before final submission.
  • Give yourself a deadline a week before the actual deadline. As the deadline approaches, you may have problems submitting your application because of increased traffic on the site.
  • Read the admission or job requirements carefully
  • Read the instructions for filling out the form at least twice
  • Use a copy of the form as a first draft. When you are happy with your answers, then enter the information into the online application form.

Filling out the application form

  • Do not leave any question unanswered on the form. Write ‘not applicable’ in the space if it does not apply to you.
  • If there is a word limit, don’t exceed it. Be concise, but answer each question completely. For questions where detail is needed, a very short answer can make you seem lazy, as can writing ‘Please see my CV’.
  • Online applications sometimes include questions about your skills, self-awareness and experience as well as hypothetical questions about how you might handle a particular situation.
  • Make sure you are as formal and thorough as you would be with applications sent by post. According to admissions committees, more online submissions are rejected for carelessness than any other reason.
  • The application may not include a spell check so write your answers in word processing software. Set your spell check to UK or US English, as appropriate and proofread your answer carefully before cutting and pasting it into the application form.
  • If possible, print out the completed form and proofread it again for spelling and grammar mistakes. Have a native speaker read it as well.

Selection tests

Some application forms include an aptitude test of your abilities, a personality assessment or a cultural fit test that asks about your likes and dislikes. Usually these tests must be completed in one session so make sure you have enough time. A Google search will turn up many examples of these kinds of tests if you would like to see what you might be asked.

Don’t try to provide answers you think they want. Questions are sometimes asked in different ways to check for consistency. The company or institution is trying to find out whether you will ‘fit in’. Reply honestly. If this company or university is not a good fit for you, would you be happy working or studying there?