How to be Successful in Online Graduate Application Forms?

Written by Faizan Patankar

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Download Online Applications Form – Information as pdf.

Today, more than ever, companies are using online application forms. A shift from the traditional ‘send-a-CV-and-Cover-Letter’ approach. These application forms take anywhere between 60-120 minutes to complete. They usually have different sections, with 4-5 questions each.

General application form structure:

  • Personal details
  • Education details
  • Employment history
  • Competency based questions
  • Reasons for applying
  • Activities and Interests
  • References

Personal Details – this section is the easiest to fill out and, as its name suggests, only requires personal information, such as name, age range, etc. 

Education Details – in this section you are asked to enter your education history, along with grades. In some cases, you might be asked to give detailed information of your University modules with grades. Remember, if there are gaps in your education, don’t try to cover them up, you will be given a chance to explain these gaps in later stages. Or you can call the HR department of the company and explain before proceeding further with the application. 

Employment History – this section requires you to fill in your work experience, or employment history. It can include part-time jobs, internships, industrial placements, year in industry. You cannot enter voluntary work and positions of responsibilities (i.e. team captain, university project manager) as employment history. Although your references can come from any of the mentioned sources. If you have had too many jobs, it is best to use the most relevant ones. Usually, there is a word limit of 200-300 words in which you have to fit your answer.

Best practice in answering employment history questions in description is to use the following format:

  • what was the job…
  • job responsibility…
  • skills gained from the job…

Competency Based Questions – this section is generally accepted to be the most difficult and time consuming section. It requires you to answer specific questions about experiences and responsibilities you might have had in the past. These are the same for every applicant within that graduate scheme application. Again the word limit ranges from 200-300 words.

An example question – Give an example of a time when you were managing a team. How did you manage it and what was the result?


Tell me about a time when you failed to complete a task or project on time, despite intending to do so?

The above question is an example from wikijob.co.uk and different ways to answer the question are given on their page here.

Best practice to answer questions in the competency section is to follow the STAR technique:

    • Situation: describe the situation
    • Task: what was the task at hand for you
    • Action: what planning/action did you undertake
    • Result: conclude with what was the direct result of your involvement (good or bad)

Reasons for applying – this section is like a mini cover letter. You have to give reasons of why you are interested in the job, or that particular scheme. This section again has word limits, hence you need to chose your words wisely. You need to go through the employers’ website and use forums online to search for past experiences from students who applied to that employer. wikijob.co.uk and thestudentroom.co.uk are good resources for such research. 

Activities and Interests – in this section you can list your interests and other activities. It may include giving details about your voluntary work or positions of responsibility. Again, if there are too many choices, it is good practice to list the most relevant ones to the job.  

References – you know all about this section. It is the same standard as the one on your CV. You simply give them details of your referees.

Review your form after completion

It is good practice to read and review your form, once complete, for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Don’t make the famous mistake of writing ‘carrier‘ instead of ‘career‘. Remember the fact that some companies have a three-strike rule with spelling mistakes i.e.: three spelling mistakes and your application is rejected at that point, without even proceeding to your credentials.

These are some basic tips about the forms. You can’t always be 100% successful, but if you follow the steps in this post, you will definitely increase your chances of being successful at the application stage.

About the author

Faizan Patankar

I started Career Geek Blog in 2011 to share my experience in job-hunting. I now focus on careers industry and blogging is just a tool to share that info. Love hacking careers. During the day I focus on my hobby - Engineering.