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Careers Service


Application forms for jobs and work experience

Most job application forms are online or downloadable documents that you send back by email. Application forms may include:

  • Questions about the company, job or sector and skills based or competency questions.
  • Personal statements or open ended questions.

Before you start, do your research

  • Employers will have a checklist of skills, experience and qualities they need for each role. Use the job description or advert to make a list. You need to provide strong evidence of your competence in as many of these areas as possible.
  • Research on the company and the role will help you to provide well-informed answers to questions such as, ‘Why do you want to be a Project Manager with our company?’
  • Check the employer’s recruitment website to find out about the culture of the organisation, additional information about the role, training and career development opportunities.
  • Go to employer led events, presentations and fairs to speak to company representatives to ask them questions.

Types of questions and how to answer them

Questions about the job: Questions about your skills show why you’re right for the job, motivational questions show why the job is right for you.

  • Why do you want to work for ALDI? The employer wants to know why you’re interested in them, not one of their many competitors. You need to evaluate why they are different and why that makes you interested in them. Are you attracted to the organisation because of their high reputation, the markets they are in, the products they make or services they offer? This does not mean you write about the competitors, it’s not about what they don’t do or offer, it’s about what ALDI does offer that makes them of interest to you.
  • "What attracts you to the position you have applied for?” Here you need to understand the nature of the role, responsibilities and duties and how it fits into the organisation. There may be many jobs advertised with one company - why this one?
    Don’t just list what you know (the company already know all the facts about themselves), they want to know your opinion on these things. What do they do that you are interested in, want to be involved in, want to learn? Show not just that you’ve learned things about the organisation but how these things influenced your decision to apply.

Questions about you – skills, strengths and competencies

  • “Please tell us about an occasion when you have worked as a member of a team or a group. Describe your personal contribution to the group and how the group functioned as a whole.”
  • “Of your interests and activities which did/do you find most enjoyable and why?"
  • "At XXXX we strive to deliver work that sets us apart from our competitors. Please describe how you set yourself apart from your peers."

Remember these are skills or strengths needed for the job, your answer should provide the evidence the company needs to assess your competence against other applicants. If the question seems odd think about why they might be asking it? What are they trying to assess?

CAR: Formula for answering competency questions

Context, Action, Result (CAR) is a formula that can be a really useful, especially when answering questions about skills.

Let’s use teamwork as an example:

  1. Firstly, outline the CONTEXT, i.e. the team you were in, e.g., final year design project, team’s purpose, number of people.
  2. Then think about your ACTION, especially what your contribution to the team was, e.g. took responsibility for scheduling series of meetings and setting deadlines, or analysed all statistical data collected into an Excel report. This is normally the most important part.
  3. Then detail the RESULT, e.g. your team received a commendation for the final presentation of the design project, your team opted to work together on the next course project as you had worked so well together. A result can also be something you learned, an insight or appreciation as well as knowledge gained.

Throughout the 3 stages try to quantify where you can, e.g. in a team of 6, a 100 page report, raised £250 for charity. This helps the employer to understand the scale you were working on and judge your performance in context.

Open-ended questions or personal statements

Typically a form will ask you to “provide information in support of your application”. The key to answering these questions well is to use a good structure.

A detailed job description is provided for most jobs. Usually you should address every point on the specification. You could follow the order and/or sub headings they have used as this will make it easy for them to review your application and to see that you have the essential or desirable skills needed for the job.

  • Say why you are interested in this organisation – the employer will want to see that you understand what makes their organisation different, and that you understand their products or clients.
  • Why are you interested in this particular role? Show where your interest and motivation has come from, and that you understand the realities of the role.
  • Then take each point on the job description in turn and using the CAR structure provide examples of your ability to perform these tasks. You can use examples from your previous jobs, volunteering, extra-curricular activities or from course work to do this.
  • Deal with one topic at a time and do not return to it (otherwise the answer appears repetitive).
  • The ideal length may depend on any other questions asked on the application and how you structure your statement. Using headings and addressing individual aspects of the person specification will take up more space. Aim for around 1-2 pages of A4.

Frequently asked questions

My UCAS points/degree classifications do not meet the employer’s requirements or were obtained overseas.

I have extenuating circumstances but there is nowhere on the form to explain them, what should I do?

  • Phone the organisation’s graduate recruitment/HR department and ask what they advise. Many recruitment numbers have automated responses and you may not get through or may not get a response to your enquiry in time. If all else fails, find a general number for the organisation from their brochure, website or directory enquiries. This will usually be a switchboard so ask to speak to someone in the relevant department (keep a record of who you spoke to).

I have a disability can I get an alternative format of the application form?

  • Ask the organisation to send you a paper application form. They should have a paper version even if they do not want to do all their recruitment this way.

How can I cover up things on my application form that I am not proud of?

  • If asked directly about something, you really have to answer the question, however, you don’t have to be negative about it. There are ways to think positively about most situations. E.g. explain how you overcame the challenge, demonstrated resilience, or had to develop a skill to manage a situation.
  • If you are asked to give all your exam results and you failed one in the first year then you still have to list it.
  • If you started a degree programme & changed course or University, it is not a bad thing. It shows you were able to evaluate the situation and take appropriate and positive action.

How should I answer the question about location?

  • Be honest if there is one or more location you really want to work in, but being flexible in your preferred location obviously maximises your chances of getting a job.
  • Decide what is your priority – location or job? Remember it may always be possible to move to your preferred location later!

Who do I give as a reference?

  • References Who to ask and what they can say about you.

How should I disclose information about a disability/health issue?

Under the 2010 Equalities Act employers are not allowed to ask questions about health or disability on an application form. They are however allowed to ask whether you require any reasonable adjustments to be made to enable you to participate fully in the recruitment process. Some forms (especially for certain jobs e.g., police, nursing) will directly ask you about health/disability issues – in this case you really should give all the details that you feel are important.

Remember that your disability or health condition could provide positive examples to use on your application form: e.g. determination & time management

Quick tips

  • Prepare your answers offline in word before you paste them in.
  • Always answer the question fully, there may be multiple parts.
  • Check the word / character limit for each answer.
  • Explain how YOU used a skill or contributed to a task
  • Be specific - quantify and qualify skills/knowledge/achievements.
  • Remember the CAR model. What was the impact of your actions.
  • Don't be negative or undersell yourself.
  • Keep a record of your application to help you prepare for interview.