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Your Essential Guide to Application Forms

Before Getting Started

Application forms are a great way to demonstrate to the employer that you have the skills and qualities that they are looking for. However, they can be filled with open questions and empty white space below and it may seem hard to know where to start. Reading through the questions and making some notes is a good place to start.

TIP: Instead of diving straight in, make a list of skills and qualities using the person specification that the specific employer is looking for and keep that in front of you.

What kind of questions should you expect on an application?

  • Employers will usually use competency based questions or behavioural. These may seem similar as they all tend to start with ‘describe a time when…’ and both entail talking about your past experiences to demonstrate that you are fit for the role.
    The difference is competency based questions focus on skills and abilities that you have gained through past experiences such as, leadership or critical thinking.

  • Behavioural questions are focusing on your personality. The employer wants to understand your characteristics and assess them against the job specification and the culture of the team. These are just as important as skills, being able to work under pressure, in a team and decision making are demonstrating that you fit the type of person they are looking for.

Some Pointers

  • Before you get started, highlight any keywords they use in the job specification, their website and on the application form. Keep these and use them when you come to answer the questions.
  • To answer these questions successfully you will need to do some background research on the company. Know who they are and what they do in some detail. You then need to look at the person specification, each job description will have this but maybe not under the same title. This will be a list of skills, qualifications, experience, knowledge and attributes that the employer is looking for.
  • A question will usually ask you to evidence a time when you have demonstrated a skill/attribute/knowledge. For example:
    Describe an occasion when you’ve worked well in a team
    Remember that the answer does not need to come from your previous employment. This can come from work experience, education, volunteering or a club that you are involved in.
  • Understand what type of question (competency/behavioural) they are asking and tailor your answer to fit this, using their language.
  • Make sure you have read and understood the instructions before you get started. This demonstrates to the employer that you display attention to detail and effort has gone into reading and understanding what they want from you.

Now you are prepared you can get going! Or scroll down for our How to Answer Application form Questions for some more details.

How to Answer Application form Questions

Application forms can vary but there are a range of standard questions that are more likely to reappear. It may be useful to explore these in some detail to get you thinking about what the employer is looking for and how you can demonstrate this effectively.

Why do you want to work for our company?

This is your chance to display that you have done your research on the company. This is important as it demonstrates to the employer that you have used your initiative and you have a real interest in the company and what they do.

Make sure your tone is enthusiastic, this will show your motivation and excite the reader. Remember you need to stand out.

TIP: Look at the company’s mission and values, these will give you a precise explanation of who they are and what their aim is. Pull the keywords and weave these throughout your answers, relating them back to you.

Why have you applied for this role?

Before you begin, reach for your list of keywords that you pulled from the job specification earlier and have them in front of you.

  • Start with what attracted you to the role
  • Relate any relevant experience or qualifications- remember this can be from a club, volunteering or work experience, not necessarily your previous employment
  • Use the skills from your list and explain how you meet these

Do the same for any behavioural qualities that they are looking for. Explain how this role fits in with your career goals

What activities are you involved in outside of work/study?

This is an important question. Your answer can help you stand out and demonstrate your personality. The questions also gives you a chance to show how you manage your time personally, highlighting your organisational and commitment skills, for example to a club or a cause.


Here you can employ the sTAR approach to a range of questions like this one: 

Situation: give a short explanation of the situation and the necessary details
Task: describe what your role was in the situation
Action: explain what you did (not we) and why
Result: what was the outcome?

TIP: Questions that involve a group situation, you should always remember to use ‘I’ not ‘we’, be specific to you and what you did.

Checklist: Before you Press Send

  • Go back over and double check all of your details are correct and you haven’t left any of the fields blank.
  • Read over your answers aloud to make sure they read well and answer the question. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Look at your list of keywords, have you used enough? Could you filter any more through?
  • Make sure your answers don’t exceed the word limit on each question and vice versa that your answers are not too short.

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