Tackling application forms when you’re a carer

Carer Woman and GranSome organisations, particularly larger ones, use application forms as the first stage of their recruitment process. From their point of view, it can be a time-saving exercise, which allows them to compare information from candidates on a like-for-like basis, and to ask for specific information.

But for people with caring responsibilities, this more formal approach can make it hard to decide how to refer to personal circumstances, or whether to do so at all. Here are some guidelines to help you give a form-based application your best shot.

Before you start

The most important thing to remember is, if a potential employer asks you to complete a form, you should do so. Don’t send in a CV instead; it’s likely to be rejected, unless you have agreed this step in advance.

You’ll also need to consider whether the role is likely to have scope for any flexibility you might need as a carer. For more advice on this topic, read our article: Can you apply for a full-time job and ask for flexibility? Yes you can!

If you decide to apply, take these steps before you start writing:

  • Read through the whole application form so you know what’s coming.
  • Note any guidelines you have been given about how to complete it.
  • Review the job description and any other available details about the role for clues about what to include.
  • Pull together the points you want to incorporate.
  • Prepare a draft for each section, and check that everything you’ve included is relevant.
  • If you’re using a paper form, take a copy so that you can do a rough version first.

Filling in the form

This is not the time to bring up your caring responsibilities, or your need to work flexibly to manage them.  Your potential employer’s priority is finding the best person for the role, so save any flexible negotiations until later. We cover this in more detail in this our article: How to talk about flexible working (or not!) during the application process.

  • Answer all the questions on the form carefully, being as specific as possible.
  • Provide concrete examples for your skills and experience, using the CAR approach:

Circumstances – what was the task?

Action – what did you do?

Result – what happened as a result?

  • Use bullet points and headings to make your responses clear and easy to read. This is especially useful in longer sections, such as your personal statement or your reasons for applying.
  • Keep to the guidelines on the number of words for each section. If you have to write more, and the guidelines allow it, attach additional pages, clearly headed.
  • Group some content if space is short – for example, bunch together several jobs from your employment history.
  • Focus on the skills and experience that are most relevant for the job you are applying for.

Before you send it off

Once you’re ready to go, it’s worth carrying out a few last-minute checks:

  • Ask someone to proof read the form for you before you send it.
  • Keep a copy, so you have it to refer to for any interviews or future applications.
  • Make sure you submit your application before the deadline, and include any additional documents required.
  • Don’t send a CV or covering letter unless you have been specifically asked to do so.

Then all that’s left to do is wait and see whether you’ve got through to the next stage. Good luck!

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