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Employers may ask different types of question on an application form.

General questions

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are your leisure interests?
  • Describe any positions of responsibility you have held.

Think about what the employer is looking for in your answer.

Example question

What skills have you developed from your work or study experience?

Here, you need to

  • highlight skills such as team work, customer service, communication, project work, research, time management, meeting targets and leadership skills

  • indicate (if necessary) that these skills are transferable to a different employment sector.

Competency based questions

Competency based questions are used to obtain direct evidence of your skills and experience. You need to provide specific examples of when you used the relevant skills.

Competency-based example questions

  • Tell us about a time when you were part of a team and there was a difference of opinion. What happened and what did you do? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a setback in your life and say what you did to overcome it. What lessons did you learn from this?
  • Describe a time when you demonstrated creativity in solving a difficult problem.

These open-ended questions about your achievements or setbacks have no right or wrong answers.

When answering competency-based questions

  • The problem or situation is of far less importance than how you resolved it and what you learned from the experience.
  • Explain how your approach to similar situations has changed as a result of the experience
  • Structure your answer using CARA:
    • context (20%) – set the scene
    • action (50%) – what you did or the skills used
    • result (20%) – the outcome
    • after (10%) – what you learned from the experience.
  • Make sure you focus on your actions, not those of the group, even if the question asks about working as part of a team
  • Use examples from your study, social activities or hobbies
  • Draw on a variety of recent situations rather than focus on just one area, such as your studies
  • Another technique to answer questions is the STAR technique

Your answers provide clues about your personality, motivation and leadership skills, and help an employer to decide on your suitability for the job.

Additional or further information sections

Application forms often include a section asking for 'further information in support of your application'. The key questions to answer here are 'Why are you applying?' and 'What makes you suitable?'

Make sure you describe

  • the skills, achievements, personal qualities and experience you have that match the person specification
  • why you want the job
  • why you want to work for that employer.

What employers say

Image of Rebecca Fielding

I deeply believe that if individuals can identify real areas of exceptional talent and strength and communicate those clearly, that is much more compelling as a candidate than everybody trying to demonstrate every single skill.

Rebecca Fielding, Owner and Managing Director, Gradconsult

  • Dealing with application questions
  • Rebecca Fielding, Owner and Managing Director, Gradconsult :

    My best advice for people completing a personal statement is to be honest about who you are and your absolute strengths and key talents.

    So think about those things that you really can offer an employer that are different, that are exceptional that are real strengths and talents and combine those together as a statement.

    So generic, bland boring statements like ‘I'm very good at working on my own and in a team’ mean nothing. Everybody could make that statement and indeed most people do. What I'm interested in are the people who can say ‘I have significantly more work experience which demonstrates my ability to work with others and communication in a business environment.’ Point one.

    Point two – I have studied for an Open Degree which demonstrates a breadth of learning, learning agility and variety in my learning which I can bring to the table which is unique and different’ and then the third point which may very well be about your personality, that is exceptional, that is a real genuine strength.

    I deeply believe that if individuals can identify real areas of exceptional talent and strength and communicate those clearly, that that is much more compelling as a candidate than everybody trying to demonstrate every single skill and essentially will simply celebrate mediocrity rather than recognising strengths, talents and individuality.

Think about yourself

Look at some of the activities in the About you section to help you think about your skills, interests and qualities.