Application forms: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

AAApplication forms

By Sabina Trench, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers

WESTPORT - Sabina Trench
Sabina Trench – WESTPORT, 087 453 5227

Now that recruitment embargos have lifted, the public sector hiring doors are open, and they often use application forms. They are used to a lot less in the private sector, but they are still deployed in some cases. If you really want to give these jobs your best shot, you need to get organised writes SABINA TRENCH, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Detail required

The amount of detail required on application forms is often a lot more than you might include on your CV. This is especially true with regard to education and qualifications. Do you know what grades you achieved in your Leaving Certificate? I thought not. And speaking about grades, where is your actual Leaving Certificate with those results?

Application formsNext come your post-Leaving Certificate results, which should be okay in that most people know if they achieved a first class honours degree. But what about the list of subjects covered? Again, you may need to root around for your results transcripts, or maybe even contact the college for a copy. At this point, I suggest you start a folder.

Following the education and qualifications section is usually the employment section. Again, there is often a higher level of detail required, such as number of months in the position, specific start and end dates, and current salary. Generally speaking, they don’t like gaps, so make sure to account for every month or year.

You will find that as you type your duties and responsibilities, you are often limited to a word or character count. You need to focus on the most important tasks that relate to the job, and if you have to leave some duties out, so be it.

More often than not, the next part of the application form focuses on competencies. These may take the form of examples (find our START approach for examples on the Sli Nua Careers website) such as a time when you showed excellent interpersonal skills. Make sure you are pulling out your best work here, and try not to use the same examples for two questions.

Finally, there is usually a ‘more information’ section at the end, with a limited word count. I have known some people to leave this blank, but please don’t. This is like leaving the interview without making your final case for selection.

Application forms

The application form is so structured, that it is often your only chance to inject a bit of personality into your application.
Sometimes, it can be easier to write the answers in a Word document, and simply copy and paste them over when you are happy with them. However, beware of the word or character count limitations.

You don’t want to have to go back and re-edit. Also, make sure to read the instructions on the form very carefully, as they may be important in how you approach the form.

While all of the above may seem daunting, don’t be put off. There are some fantastic opportunities available in the public sector, and with a little organisation and plain hard work, it could be the best career move you make.
Many of the public sector jobs are advertised on, local authority opportunities often appear on That said; keep an eye on the main jobs websites, local papers, and Government department websites.