Applications / Job market

How can I answer application questions more effectively?

Often applicants find themselves worrying about answering application questions that need evidence of their skills and how they match the role. Competency or skills based recruitment is nothing new and it is a straightforward way to give evidence of skills you have to a recruiter. So how can you answer the question?

Think about what you want and who offers those opportunities

Spiral notebook on Laptop with blank WishlistSimilar job titles and companies in the same sector don’t equal the same job or the same experience. Do your research and think about what fits you best. Understand the role and what will be expected of you. Think about the motivation you have working for that company. All companies are different with differing clients, stakeholders, products and services. Understanding what attracts you to a company is more than them being a ‘market leader’, think about what makes them a market leader in your eyes. What attracted you to them? Did you attend a presentation? Were you impressed by someone’s story of their career with the company?

Give yourself the time to do the application

Don’t rush an application, and don’t think quantity ever takes the place of quality. It is better to do five targeted and tailored applications than 20 generic ones. Understand when the deadlines are, understand what your priorities are. Planning out your applications will make sure you give the employer all the possible evidence and ensure you aren’t stressing out at the last moment. Cutting and paste will always show! That is why the recruiters tell us so personalise each application. (We have created an applications Moodle course for University of Warwick students that you can use when applying for work).

Identify the required skill(s) 

skills requiredWhat is the question asking for? Think about the evidence you have for that skill. Is the question about communication skills? Think what they mean by communication? Presenting, writing, listening, summarising and questioning are all key communication skills so think of your examples as they fit the question. Skills also link together – to be an effective communicator you need strong interpersonal skills to understand colleagues. You also need to be organised. Think how you have achieved this in previous examples.

Always reflect on your experiences.

Take time to think about what you have done and consider, ‘what did I get from this experience?’ Sometimes we learn more from when things go wrong than when everything runs smoothly. Think about what you enjoyed and what you didn’t and consider what was it that made this experience a useful one for you? This is a key tool when you are plot out your next moves as you explore the skills that you have enjoyed and want to use more of and also those that you feel you can develop much further.

Use a tool like CAR(R) or STAR

Concrete wall and wooden floor with retro starRemember that this is not quite the same format as writing an essay. Think about what the context (or the situation) was and keep it brief. Think about the action that you have taken. If it was a team situation, you need to demonstrate what your role was and what action you took, Think about the results and also reflect on what you learned from the experience. We have produced a video to help you on our You Tube  channel

Think of ways to develop and expand your skills

This is not something you do once but something you are constantly doing. Constant personal development and reflection will be part of your continued personal and professional development throughout your career. So, get to grips with your self-awareness (explore the Moodle course on this theme).

Check for spelling and grammatical mistakes

You cannot just rely on a computer’s spell check as it won’t spot a typo like ‘fro’ instead of ‘for’. Get in the habit of re-reading what you have written and also ask a friend to check your application before pressing send.

Handwriting Old Way or New Way with marker on visual screenRemember this is a simply a new process of presenting evidence. You will learn to adapt to it. You need to be offering the recruiter clear evidence of skills and experiences, not statements of, ‘I have…’. This is much more about you demonstrating how you use(d) that skill and how you have developed it. Get applications checked and then if possible ask for feedback to see the areas that you can improve on.

Good luck!

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