Top 7 Most Common Application Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant at the Careers Service

Applying for a graduate job or placement? Many organisations require a CV or cover letter, but application forms can very popular as well. 

You can usually submit an application form online, by downloading a copy and returning the competed version via email. The content of application forms vary depending on the company and opportunity, but are generally used to find out more about your motivation for applying for the job and organisation, your skills, knowledge and experience. They can take the form of open-ended questions or a personal statement with a word limit.

Watch out for these seven common application mistakes and find out how to ace your application!

  1. Not researching the company or role

Just like with an interview or cover letter, you should show that you have researched the employer in your application form. Explore the ‘about us’ section of their website, search for news about the company, or look at their social media. Refer to your research in your application form. 

  1. Copy and pasting generic answers

Even if the questions are similar, the employer, role and skills for each job will be different. You should tailor every answer for each job you apply for, even though this can be more time consuming. The recruiter reading your application will spot generic, copy and paste responses easily. Have a look at our applications advice page for guidance on answering application questions.

  1. Not reading the instructions carefully

Application forms will outline specific instructions and include a set number of questions you need to answer. For example, you may need to stick to a word count, avoid bullet points, or talk specifically about one type of experience. Questions may also have multiple parts; avoid skim-reading questions to avoid missing vital steps.

When filling out an application form, make sure you have plenty of time. Read each question carefully, and make sure you answer all parts of the question in your answer. Watch this video on our YouTube channel for more application advice

  1. Not matching your answers to the job description

When you are answering the questions, tailor your response to the job. Look at the skills and key words from the job description and use your answers as a space to demonstrate how you match the role. Look at our list of transferable skills for ideas of skills and experiences you might include, and for some common application questions relating to each skill.

  1. Failing to quantify your answers

Don’t just list duties or skills – evidence them. Use the Context, Action, Result (CAR) model (or similar), to explain what you did, why, and the results of your action. Quantify your evidence – how many people were there, how long was the report, how much money did you raise? Remember that you can book an application review appointment on CareerConnect to get feedback and support for your application.

  1. Having an unprofessional email address

Is your email address a nickname, joke, or in any way inappropriate? Don’t use it. The hiring manager will see your email address as unprofessional rather than funny. Instead, set up a professional email address for job applications, to avoid embarrassment or instant rejection.

  1. Not submitting your application correctly

Read the instructions for how to submit carefully, for example:

  • Some applications should be submitted online, others via email.
  • Some should be submitted as PDFs, others as word documents.
  • Some want different elements combined into one document, while some want separate components.
  • Some want additional documents, such as a CV, references, portfolio, monitoring form, etc. and some do not.

Don’t assume that each application will be the same. Double check how they want you to submit your application, what the deadline is, and if there are any other documents you need to complete.

Need more help with your applications?

We have lots of advice for different kinds of application forms on our website. You can also book a 20-minute Application Review Appointment to get feedback on your application before you submit it.

Remember, as a graduate, you can continue to access the Careers Service for up to two years after you finish your course. This includes all of the events, appointments and opportunities on CareerConnect. Look at our graduate careers pages for more information and resources.

Applications and interviews Careers advice

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