Application forms


A guide to CVs, cover letters, and application forms

A free guide, written by the LSE careers consultants and available only to LSE students. Come to the LSE Careers resource centre (5th Floor, Saw Swee Hock Student Centre) to pick up your free copy. You can also download a PDF of the booklet.


Application forms: the basics

Employers like to use application forms because:

  1. They are in control
  2. They can ask complicated questions
  3. Application forms are more systematic and objective than a CV

Employers want to find out from applications forms:

  1. What have you done?
    • Academics
    • Work
    • Leisure
    • Voluntary
  2. How have you doen it?
    • Skills
    • At what level?


Before you start filling in your application form:

  • List everything you have done
  • Decide what skills you gained from these experiences
  • Delete any that might be tricky if probed further
  • List what the employer is looking for
  • Create a match

Types of questions

  • Biographical questions, e.g. what grades you got at 'A' level
  • Tricky questions, e.g. what is your favourite animal and why
  • Why us? questions - be precise
  • Anything else to add? questions - be careful!
  • Competency questions, e.g. give an example of a team you have been in
  • What was your role? How did the team work together? What was the outcome?

Competency-based questions

Common mistakes made when answering competency-based questions:

  • Going over the word count
  • Not answering all the parts of the question
  • Messy structure
  • Drawing all your examples from one event
  • Getting the emphasis wrong

Emphasis should be on explaining:

  • Situation - 10%
  • Task - 10%
  • Action - 70%
  • Result - 10%

Personal statements

  • Answer all the sections
  • Structure it clearly
  • Analyse your experience rather than just list it
  • Match yourself to their requirements

Online application forms

  • Essentially the same as paper-based application forms
  • Read all the instructions
  • Print off a blank form
  • Word process your answers
  • Paste answers on to application form
  • Keep a printed copy
  • Know when to stop!

Common reasons for rejection

  • Don't meet minimum criteria
  • Irrelevant information
  • Not concise
  • Instructions not followed
  • Grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Messy appearance
  • All talk and no substance!