By Andrew Fennell

The Guardian, August 23, 2017 —

They may seem long and laborious, but for many employers they are an important part of the hiring process.

Make sure you impress recruiters with well written answers. Photograph: mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

After investing time crafting your perfect CV, online applications may seem monotonous and time-consuming, but with many big employers favouring them, you need to learn how to use them effectively.

Job application forms are a great way to demonstrate your skills and strengths to a potential employer. You must learn how to convey all your major selling points, while sticking to the often strict guidance of the form.

To impress recruiters, every online job application form should include seven key points:


This should come as no surprise, but it’s easy to forget the goal and go into auto-pilot when filling out a lengthy application form. Simply going through the motions and answering questions will not get you the best results. Think of every question as an opportunity to sell yourself and prove you are the right choice. Find out the exact requirements for the role and try to match your skills in every answer.


When writing expansive answers, use real-life examples to show recruiters you have a proven record in your field. Use personal pronouns (I, me etc) when describing your actions; avoid collective terms such as “we” or “our team”. This will differentiate your contribution from that of your colleagues and show the value you could bring to the role.


Your CV will no doubt be packed with examples of your skills, so you need to transfer them to your application form. Provide solid examples of the skills you have developed and don’t leave any important ones out. Once you’ve completed your form, it’s a good idea to scan the whole document and compare it with your CV to check for any missing skills. Focus on detailing hard skills specific to your industry rather than soft skills as these are what recruiters will be looking for.


Knowledge is power in the workplace, so you need to prove yours in your online applications. This could range from market or industry expertise, to IT systems or process knowledge. Use your answers to demonstrate how you apply your knowledge to the benefit of your employers, and include popular language and terminology.


When sticking to the guidelines of an application form, it can sometimes be difficult to convey your seniority. To avoid appearing more junior than you are, use at least one of your answers to demonstrate your level. Do this by including examples of the stakeholders you report to as well mentioning the size of any teams you lead. Failure to do this may leave recruiters guessing as to where you sit in the hierarchy of your organisation.


You wouldn’t send out your CV without examples of the results you have achieved and an application form should be no different. Try to round up every answer with tangible results to give recruiters an idea of the impact your work has had. Listing your actions and responsibilities is great, but it’s worthless if you don’t show how your actions benefited your previous employers. If you can link your work directly to important business metrics, such as saving costs or generating revenue, you will impress potential employers and receive more responses.

Communication skills

Written communication skills are required in most roles, so it’s important you convey them in your application. Don’t simply state “I have strong communication skills”, as anybody could do that. Instead, use the form to demonstrate your written communication skills. Write well-structured sentences with a professional tone. This will give recruiters a good idea of how you would communicate with colleagues.

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter and the founder of CV writing service StandOut CV.