Job Application Questions & Answers

Job applications can really be the young job seeker’s Achilles’ heel. Question after question can leave the best of us confused or just downright bored, but believe us, answering job application questions can be an art in itself.

We’re here to help you through that pile of job applications. We’ll snap you out of the torpor that endless job application questions can induce. In short, we’re here to apply the pressure hose to all the muck and confusion surrounding job application questions and answers.

Re-examine the job advert…

Before you even start answering the questions on your job application form, go back to the job advert and find out as much as you can about the company and the role. Write down a list of the skills and qualities they are looking for in an employee (these can usually be found on the job advert or the company’s website). Find out exactly what the company does and note down their company values.

Why should you do this? It’s obvious really: they want to find the best person for the job and their company. You need to know exactly what they are looking for, so you can sell yourself in the right way.

Read the questions properly…

You will also gather a lot from the questions on the job application form. They have been deliberately chosen by the employer to test whether you have certain skills or qualities. Consequently, you should be able to get a good sense of the kind of person they are looking for. Other common things they might want to see in your answers include:

- Commercial awareness;

- Motivation and ambition;

- Enthusiasm and a genuine desire to work for the company;

- Relevant work experience.

Make sure you support your answers with evidence from your work experience, your education or your extracurricular activities.

How to answer job application questions…

First of all, try to avoid copying and pasting answers from previous application forms. This can lead to all kinds of rookie errors, such as forgetting to change the name of the company or pasting an answer that doesn’t completely answer the question. Also, each company might be looking for different things in an employee, so there is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer to job application questions.

Keep your answers concise, but make sure you answer the questions fully too. Employers will probably be working their way through a lot of job application forms and many won’t read overlong applications. You want to provide quite detailed answers, but without going into the minute specifics. Tantalise them and make them want to meet you. If you’re struggling to stay in the word limit, it’s best to write out your answer fully then edit it down. Be harsh: strike out anything that isn’t directly relevant. Cut out any waffle.

Most of your answers to job application form questions should have a point, they shouldn’t be purely descriptive. It’s about showing, not telling. Think about the key skills and qualities you need to demonstrate in each answer and figure out how you can provide evidence of them.

You might want to use job application buzz words, particularly when applying to larger companies who might use application scanning software. Make sure you’ve got all the relevant keywords in your answers. For more information about this, read our job application buzz words article.

Nailing the basic questions…

People get so preoccupied with the ‘big’ questions in the job application form that they rush through the more mundane questions, which might simply ask you to list facts and dates. You can slip up here too: make sure you’ve spelt all company, school and university names properly, got the right dates, and correctly listed all your exam results. It might sound pedantic, but any errors in this section may betray a lack of attention to detail.

Let’s look at some of the ‘bigger’ questions now. A typical question might ask you to outline your previous work experience. In this instance, it’s important to keep it relevant and emphasise your best work experience. Think about the qualities and skills they are looking for and how you can use your work experience to show it.

Another favourite is “what attracts you to our company/this role?” Here they are gauging how much you want to work for them, how much you know about the company and how much you know about the job role. This is the perfect chance to show off the research you’ve done on the company. Pick out two or three unique things which particularly appeal to you about the company and the job, and then focus on them. A generic “I think your company is really great and I want this job because I’ve got bills to pay” won’t cut the mustard.

They also like to slip in those tricky little critters called competency-based questions. These are usually phrased like:  “Give an example of…” or “Describe a time when…” Essentially, answering these questions is all about making a connection between your past experiences and the skills and attributes they want you to show.

You can give examples from a number of things: previous work experience, part-time work, university (if you are a university student), school (if you are a school leaver), personal experience or extracurricular activities. The example isn’t necessarily the most important thing when answering the question, but rather how you use it to demonstrate a particular skill or attribute.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself…

The likelihood is that you probably won’t draft the perfect answer to each question straight away. It’s always best to write out your answers in a Word document first, so you can edit them easily and check for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Before sending off your application, get a couple of other people, such as a careers adviser, to check it through. However, bear in mind that there isn’t such a thing as a perfect answer to a job application question, so don’t spend days agonising over the use of one particular word. You just need to make sure your answers do the job and get you an interview.