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Make your application form stand out

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The growth of e-recruitment has breathed new life into the application form. It has been a standard recruitment tool for sales assistant jobs, but now many retailers also ask candidates for management jobs to fill in an online form. This enables them to capture information in the same format and compare applicants more easily.

Some retailers use a mix of application forms and CVs. Debenhams, for example, expects sales assistants to fill in an application form online, while head office jobs usually require applicants to submit a shorter form alongside an up-to-date CV.

An application form is an opportunity to sell your retail skills and to show a prospective employer you understand the industry and more particularly, their business. There is usually little space on online forms so you need to keep it brief. Waffling is a complete no-no.

Do your homework before you complete the form. Carry out some initial research about the business, what it sells, where it operates and what it’s like to work there. Retailers are passionate about their brand and their customers, and you need to be, too.

Read the latest news and features from Corporate websites can also be good sources of information. Talking to current employees is also a great way of discovering what a business is like.

Make sure you have a copy of the job description when filling in the form. You want your experience and achievements to be as close a match as possible. A big advantage of posting jobs online is that it helps recruiters to include more information about the job and the person they're looking for. So use it to your advantage!

Unlike paper forms, it's usually impossible to read the whole online form before filling it in. Some retailers, such as Sainsbury's, explain how the application works, but almost all recruiters want you to complete the current page on screen before moving on. But remember, it is usually possible to save your form, go back and refine it before finally sending it through.

Applying for jobs online can seem comparatively easy. It's all at the click of a button. Before you send your application, be sure there are no silly mistakes, such as spelling errors or inaccurate dates. Above all, make sure you've used every opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the brand.

Killer questions

A growing number of retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, ask jobseekers to answer what are called 'killer' questions before allowing them to fill in an online application.

Killer questions are designed to save both recruiters and jobseekers time by screening out candidates who don’t fulfil the minimum requirements for the job. These can apply to all retail jobs, although retailers might tailor their questions to different specialisms. Most retailers won't let online applicants complete their application form until they've answered these questions.

Remember, they are designed to help find the people most suited to a role, so always answer honestly and make sure you have the necessary experience.

Some killer questions that retailers might ask are:

  • Have you worked in retail before?
  • Can you demonstrate that you are eligible to work in the UK?
  • Can you work for a minimum of 16 hours a week?
  • Can you work shifts?
  • Are you available to work late nights and early mornings?
  • Are you available to work weekends?
  • Do you have any unspent criminal convictions?

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