Application forms demystified
Here you will find information to help you get the most of what you put into your application form and present yourself in a positive light, and give evidence of how you meet the job requirements.
Many companies use similar questions in their application forms, and may sometimes also give advice on how to answer them. They are providing a structured means of seeing how you respond to such questions and are looking at your self-awareness. The questions are also designed for you to sell yourself and demonstrate you have the right skills and personal qualities an employer is looking for. Think about how you can best answer the questions about yourself and how you can provide the information the company is looking for. Compose your responses carefully and make sure what you write makes sense.
S – Situation, background set the scene
T – Task or Target, i.e. the specifics of what was required, for when, where, who was involved
A – Action, what you did, the skills and behaviours you used, the characteristics you needed that were important in dealing with the task
R – Result – the outcome, what happened
The Situation and Task could easily be combined and would effectively be the introduction and setting the scene in your response. The Action you took would form the main body of your answer and the Result would be your conclusion. This is really the same format you would use in writing an essay. Many of us will not have done this for some time, so it does take quite a lot of thinking about.
Employers want motivation and commitment. Are you ambitious and driven or the type to give up easily?
Communication and people skills
Interacting with people and getting your ideas across is important. Have you got the people skills to get colleagues working effectively with you? Are you a good communicator?
Sticking to policy and procedure
Rules can be really important to the smooth running of a ship or business. Are you able to stick to rules and procedures?
Companies have to be responsive to many factors in a working environment or in general business operations. How do you handle change or how might you ensure others adapt effectively?
There will be many work-based situations where you have different views to those of others. How do you get your point across and respond to people with conflicting opinions?
Decisiveness and judgement
You’ll often encounter situations at work where difficult decisions need to be taken in order for progress to be made. Do you have the confidence and skills to do so?
Organisational and planning skills
Employers are looking for high productivity. Can you organise your workload so that tasks are done well and on time?
Every day we come across obstacles of varying scale. How do you approach problems and implement solutions?
Work under pressure
Performing well under stressful situations is important for many roles. Can you keep a clear head and think on your feet?
Very few professions require individuals to work in isolation. It’s important you can work towards a common goal with a team of colleagues as well as contribute on an individual level.
- Demonstrating your technical skills relevant to the job role
- Showing your organisational/planning skills
- Identifying your leadership/teamwork skills
- Showing your problem-solving abilities
- Demonstrating your ability to deal with challenging situations
Some application forms will use a skills based questioning approach, which will also say what you need to cover in your answer. You have to think about how you can relate this to your personal work or professional experience and expertise.
In completing any application form remember the three E’s
Enthusiasm – show your interest in the company by researching it and referring to specific aspects
Evidence – give examples of your successful achievements
Employability – show how useful you will be to that employer
DO research the company, the career area and the actual job for which you are applying. Make sure you can offer the qualifications, experience and personal skills that the employer is seeking.
DO make sure you are using the right form – some employers have different forms for different job functions.
DON’T use a CV if the employer specifies that you should use their application form.
DON’T start to write on the form itself until you are certain of what you are going to say.
DO write your first draft on a photocopy of the form, to make sure that you can fit everything you want to include into the space available.
DO think about whether you should complete the application form on the computer or in writing. You may not have a choice, but if you are completing it in writing, make sure it is readable, and use black ink – your form will probably be photocopied and this makes it easier to read.
DO find a quiet place to fill out the form – keep coffee cups and chocolate bars at a safe distance.
DO read the form through and follow all instructions. DO keep a copy of each application form. When it comes to the interview stage, it is hugely useful to remember what you have told the employer!