Q: I’m about to get stuck into a huge application form for a job in a local authority. I feel like just sending in my CV instead and seeing how that goes. What do you think? Are they likely to be strict about using their standard application forms? I feel that my CV sells me better. (CD, email).
A: In short, you have to play by their rules, and it’s best to accept that, however forbidding the form may be – and I know only too well that they can be extremely forbidding, writes Mary O’Brien-Killeen, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
A local authority must treat all candidates the same. In this case, it’s a form for one and for all. They tend to specify that they will accept only the form, without any cover letter or CV, and, if that’s the guideline they have offered here, they must follow it.
If they vary the process for one candidate, they leave themselves open to some tricky questions afterwards. Why was one candidate allowed to do something differently? Why wasn’t the same opportunity afforded to me?
So, you need to persist with your form. Take it step by step. An approach I have found useful is to break it into smaller forms, and set yourself the task of completing them in separate sittings, before bringing them all together at the end. It is useful to lose the feeling that you’re climbing a mountain as you plough through 15, 16 or 17 pages.
Instead, do three or four pages, and come back fresh a day later for three or four more.
Seek input from a trusted colleague who can help to identify what might go into the form – and then ask for their feedback after you’ve done your first three or four pages. By talking it through you can tweak what you’ve done and ensure that you are starting off on the right foot for the next section.
Remember, too, that while the application form can be a major undertaking, it does allow you to talk at length about achievements in your career. This, in turn, will help to focus you for the interview when they will look at the same competencies they’ve asked you to complete in the form.
Best of luck. Step by step. You’ll get there. Keep word counts and overall form length within the limits, if any, set by the local authority.