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Job Application Tips

The only thing standing between you on this job, be it a part-time job, summer job or graduate scheme is the application form (and possibly the interview, but that’s another story).

Application forms are great – they allow employers to ask specific questions and also ensure that you don’t have to faff around and worry about what to include and, if you’re lucky, what not to include in a covering letter. However, they also standardise the process, making it even more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Always Remember The Description & Desired Skills

These are the two most useful things provided by your potential employer in the job advert and it’s important that you mention your relevant experience in relevant parts of the application. This is what the application form is designed for, to make sure that employers can see evidence of your skills in action. Some parts of the form convey this easier than others. If the job requires you to be educated to degree level, it’s clear that from your education details as to whether you are or not.

However, the ‘Why…’ questions and competency questions make it a little bit trickier for you to show you can carry out the responsibilities attached to the job and show examples of when you’ve carried out similar responsibilities.

The ‘Why…’ Questions

“Why do you want to work for us?” Erm, because you’re offering an absolutely killer salary!

Probably best not to mention this. Rather you should mention how you’re looking to build on skills X, Y and Z and believe that you can also offer A, B and C to the company. Your answer should include an in-depth knowledge of the company, where they operate, their competitors and, above all, knowledge of their services and customers.

The Competency Questions

Competency questions are deliberately designed to see what your skills are and seek evidence of times when you used them. For some questions, it’s so obvious what employers are looking for it’s cringe worthy. Depending on the role, employers will be looking for evidence of teamwork, management, organisation, problem-solving, initiative… you know, the usual.

There’s a few methods to tackle the competency questions, one of them being STARR.

S – describe a Situation

T – what was your Task?

A – what Action did you take?

R – what was the Result?

R – upon Reflection, what would you have done differently?

Using this method to answer competency questions is highly recommend as it shows acknowledgement of the task at hand and the use of initiative and expertise to reach a positive outcome.

Other Questions

You may get asked what your strengths and weaknesses are. Benching 80kg is not a strength, unless you’re applying to be Essex’s strongest man/woman. Jokes aside, in this section, don’t write one word answers. It would be more ideal if you described how your responsibilities in your current job has allowed you to hone a particular skill.

Another question you could get asked is something along the lines of “Who would you take to a desert island and why?” There’s obviously no right or wrong answer to this, but it’s important to think about how different people could help. Wayne Rooney may not be much help on a desert island, but Bear Grylls might be.

Finally, make sure you check your application for typos about seven times before sending it off and if you’re lucky enough to land an interview, give it a re-read so you can talk about the points you mentioned.