Step 5 – Getting a Job when your Autistic: How to Write a Good Application Form

What is an Application Form?

When applying for a specific job, many places, ask you to fill out an application form instead of a CV.  This makes it easier for the person who checks all of the application forms.  Due to everything being in the same order enabling them to quickly compare each person’s details.  It is also seen as being fairer as everyone has answered the same questions.

In addition to this many application forms provide a section to put in details such as your religion, disability, race, sexual orientation and so on.  This is then used to make sure that these groups of people are given a fair chance of getting the job and are not discriminated against.  Although this is a nice idea, statistics and news articles often show that discrimination still takes place.  The group that are probably discriminated the most, and held back from getting jobs, are people with disabilities which includes high functioning autism/aspergers.  But do not let this put you off.  I always take the view that it just means you have to try harder than everyone else and it is this strength and determination that will make you a stronger person.

If you don’t succeed in getting a particular job, try your best to keep your confidence and self-belief high.  There will be people (I have certainly come across many in my life when applying for jobs, especially at the interview stage) that will automatically discriminate against you for being different.  They may feel that you will not fit in or do a good job by judging you on the traits of your high functioning autism/aspergers. In their minds they will feel that you are not suitable for the job.  There will be occasions when you feel that they are right in their opinions and you may give in on applying for a certain type of job.  But you must not let the opinion of others (especially one or two people) sway your own view of yourself too much.  Most of the time they are wrong and it just takes the right person to give you a chance next time.   Trust me that right person will interview you one day.  Once in a while they might have a valid point (say if you are like me and your verbal communication/social skills are not good enough to do a job that highly requires this skill set).  But this does not mean it is time to give up on the idea.  The opposite is actually true, and if you feel this is the right type of job for you, then you need to improve on the areas that you are weak in.  It may take several years to do this by improving your qualifications or doing jobs that aren’t quite what you envisioned yourself doing, but keep trying and you will get there.

Good Tips to Follow

Although application forms often seem easy to fill in and get right there are a number of good guidelines to follow to do the best job.

  • Always fill out application forms in black ink and using block capital letters. Often application forms will be photocopied or scanned and the black ink shows up much better than lighter colours.  Block capital are much easier and clearer to read as well as being neater.
  • There may be terms used on the application form that you are not sure about and it is definitely worth looking these up on google to make sure you answer correctly. Some terms you might not quite be sure about could include:
    • Gender – which is usually male or female but could be unspecified which means you prefer not to say, which is absolutely fine.
    • Sexual orientation – which could be heterosexual which is being sexually attracted to the opposite sex. Or could be many other different answers such as homosexual where men are attracted to other men, lesbian where women are attracted to other women or bisexual where a person is attracted to both sexes.
  • Make sure your email address is a good professional one such as you name. You do not want something like barbiegirl@gmail.com.
  • It is usually best to fill out applications on the computer if that option is available. This will give the neatest writing and will sometimes automatically check the spelling.  If it does not check the spelling copy and paste everything into Microsoft Word to check it.  Especially your personal statement to make sure it is all correct.
  • The most important part of an application form is often the personal statement. Or the area where you are given a lot of room to write about yourself.  This is the perfect area where you can write about yourself to say how you match what they are looking for.  In the personal specification (which is basically the document they will use to say what qualifications, experience and skills they are looking for) you need to write about how you personally meet the things they are specifically asking for.  It is your chance to really sell yourself so take your time on this section to get it perfect.  It is also where they can see your writing ability and may check for things like grammar, spelling and so on.
    • Although they will be able to clearly see your qualifications from the qualification section it is worth writing a sentence or two to cover them. Something like: I am a highly qualified computing teacher with a degree in computing, a PGCE in education and a Master’s degree in Computer Security.
    • They will also clearly be able to see your past experience but again it is worth writing one or two sentences to emphasis your experience. For example: I have spent the past ten years working in education as both a teacher and a teaching assistant.  In this time, I have taught for five years in a range of educational institutions such as secondary schools and further education colleges.
    • Then you look at the specific skills and requirements they are looking for and you answer each one with how you meet this and an example to prove it. So it may be written that they want a person who is experienced at providing pastoral care to students.  Then you would write how you personally meet this such as:  In my two years at teaching at London College I had a tutorial group every Wednesday morning where I provided students with group and one to one support to help them with personal issues that were effecting their studies.  This ranged from helping to secure personal transport for a disabled student to liaising with colleagues to extend assignment deadlines for a student who had a close family bereavement.
    • Don’t be afraid to add an extra sheet for all this information if required. They will often say you can attach extra sheets at the back or give room to add extra information.  Perhaps one extra sheet will be the right amount of extra information as you don’t want to give too much or too little.
  • Try not to leave any blank spaces, but if there is a section that does not apply to you instead of leaving it blank put N/A which means not applicable. This shows that you have seen the question and you haven’t just left it blank for no reason.

Mistakes People Make on Their Application Forms

There are many mistakes that can be made when writing an application form and sometimes often simple errors can be the difference between getting to the interview stage or being unsuccessful.  Many of these are similar to the mistakes I highlighted on the advice page about writing CVs so if you’ve read that page you will probably have read most of below already:

  • Making mistakes with spellings and grammar.
  • Spelling a company name wrong or their details such as address.
  • Trying to fit too much in a small amount of space. I often find this when trying to fit all of my qualifications in a small table.  But there are ways to put each qualification on one line and I will use the last line to say ‘please see the attached sheet for my other qualifications’ if there is not enough room.
  • Telling lies about qualifications or work history.
  • Unexplained gaps in your past such as missing out a year when you were not employed or in education – you should include this but be creative on how you explain what you did without lying.
  • Using cliché words like flexible, good time management skill, good communication skills and being a team player. It is much better to give personal examples instead.  For example: instead of writing you’re a team player you can say something like “I recently worked with the marketing department to develop and launch our company’s new website.”
  • Posting or handing in the application form late is almost certainly going to look bad.
  • Forgetting to add extra things that they ask for such as a photocopy of a document.
  • Making mistakes with your contact details like your phone number or email address. This may mean that you cannot be contacted which could be a missed opportunity.

Should you Declare You Have High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s

Just like I mention on writing a CV, there is no clear right or wrong answer to this question.  Some employers are very forward thinking with employing people with a wide range of disabilities and may give you a fair shot providing you’ve got the right qualifications and experience.  They may even take into consideration our differences when it comes to the interview stage, which could be really beneficial.  But when looking at the statistics people with high functioning autism/Asperger’s have a much lower chance than the rest of society at securing a paid job (whether this is part time, and much rarer for us full time).  I believe that a lot of this is down to prejudice and not understanding autism fully.  Therefore, if you are not sure about the company and their stance on employing people with autism it might be best to not mention it at this stage.  But it is entirely your choice.

For me I have never had to mention it as I was not diagnosed with autism until my adulthood.  I have told my current employer about being high functioning autistic and I would seriously consider telling future employers.  If there is a tick box on an application form that asked if I felt I had a disability I would probably tick it.  But this is only if I thought the employer would give a person with high functioning autism a fair shot otherwise I will be leaving it blank.

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