Monday, 5 November 2012

FAQ - Can Someone Help Me Fill Out an Online Application Form?

Some of our students clearly think that online application forms are a pain in the back end, and many Careers Advisers partly share this view. This is because it is actually quite hard for us to see what is going on in the world of online applications without starting to apply for the jobs ourselves!

As such online application forms are a bit of a Pandora's Box - you never quite know what will spring out next. But the main answer to this FAQ is that we are always pleased to hear from University of Cumbria students and graduates by email if they would like a meeting to discuss online forms.

A look at the dim and distant archives of this blog shows that I took a look at online application forms nearly four years ago.  So what follows next is bit of an update on the information offered there:

Copy and Paste

One standard piece of advice is to prepare answers to questions offline and paste them onto the relevant screen. But the most popular tool for preparing drafts is Microsoft Word, which has sometimes been known to cause problems because it generates a good deal of spurious html code.  Assuming the online form isn't clever enough to weed out the unwanted characters, the applicant can be left finding that they have exceeded the word or character limit on the form for no apparent reason.

If you find this is happening to you, a better way might be to copy and paste the answer into a text editor like Notepad first. If you then copy and paste from the text editor into the form, the extra code will be eliminated and 'what you see is what you get' again.  Note however that you may need to re-insert any formatting (e.g. bold, italics) that you want to keep.


Deadlines can cause an extra problem for applications in cyberspace that does not really exist with the paper equivalent.  The scene is that many people decide to apply at the last minute, the company's server gets clogged up and some applicants in Cinderella-like fashion fail to log on before the clock chimes and the system closes down the vacancy.

So the clear moral of the story is: set your own deadline a good bit before the deadline.

Extra Questions

Online forms often have more detailed questions than paper forms, which may simply ask for "Comments in Support of Your Application".  Competency-based questions are a common favourite, so it is useful to swat up on them - for example using the simulator produced by the University of Kent.

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