Job application forms involve providing personal details, such your name, contact details and qualifications as well as answers to specific questions designed to assess your suitability for a specific role or organisation. You may also need to address Key Selection Criteria (KSC). KSC outline the personal qualities, skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications the employer wants applicants to have.
Having the same type of information from all applicants gives employers the opportunity to assess everyone’s suitability against the same criteria, and shortlist the best candidates for further assessment and interviews.
Job application forms use two main types of questions.
1. Questions about your motivation for applying
2. Questions about your skills and abilities
1. Questions about your motivation for applying
• Why did you decide to apply for a job with us?
• Why are you interested in a career in audit?
• What are your career goals?
How to respond to questions about your motivation
- Demonstrate that you have a realistic understanding of what the position entails and you are motivated to do it.
- Show that you have a unique reason for applying and have done your research.
- What is your motivation to build a career in this industry?
- Why are you enthusiastic about the specific position and organisation?
- Does the position link to a longer term career goal? How?
- Did you do well in subjects relevant to the position?
- Have you had work experience that gave you an insight in to this type of work?
- Will this position allow you to use skills you enjoy developing?
- Have you spoken to or read about current employees who enjoy their work?
3. Identify and practice explaining your unique motivation and selling points.
SAMPLE RESPONSE TO A QUESTION ABOUT MOTIVATION
Why are you interested in a career in audit? (word limit of 250)
A career in audit has attracted me since I completed a first year auditing in practice subject, and achieved a distinction. Working on real case studies involving independent audits of financial information for multinational companies gave me an insight into the intellectually challenging work of an auditor in a firm. I enjoyed using my analytical skills to assess how clients in these case studies could be supported to comply with regulations.
In order to further investigate accounting and advisory careers, I attended a PWC student day and had the opportunity to work-shadow a Tax Auditor for the afternoon. I was able to observe their daily work and I gained an appreciation of the need for clear communication when liaising with clients. As a result of this experience, I decided to major in audit as I believe it will allow me to utilise my communication and team work skills gained through employment as a sports coach, as well my solid understanding of regulatory issues evidenced through my consistently strong results in auditing subjects.
In my current role as an administration assistant for a law firm, I am required to undertake varied research and complete client documentation within tight deadlines. I am also responsible for taking accurate notes of client meetings on behalf of the legal team. I enjoy this work as it allows me to further develop skills such as attention to detail, commercial awareness and critical thinking which I understand to be vital to the effectiveness of an auditor.
2) Questions about your skills and abilities
These may be:
- included in application forms
- listed as key selection criteria
- asked in interviews
General, open questions
- Tell us about your extra-curricular interests.
- What subjects did you enjoy most at uni?
Key Selection Criteria
- Provide evidence of well-developed communication skills both written and verbal
- Excellent ability to work as part of a multifunctional team
- Tell us about a time you demonstrated excellent customer service/team work / initiative.
- Please provide an example of when you have used your academic or professional knowledge to solve a problem.
- Describe a time when you have used your initiative to create a win/win situation.
- Describe a time when you have had to adapt to a situation that was not favourable. What did you learn from this and what would you do differently next time?
- Please provide an example of when you have worked in a team with such differing views that it distracted the group from the focus of the activity. What was your role in influencing the team to get back on track?
Expect employers to ask a number of behavioural questions related to the skills they are looking for. These can be tough to answer unless you’ve already identified your particular talents and strengths and thought of examples that could illustrate how and why you meet the employer’s needs. It’s essential to put time and effort into practising as your answers can determine whether you will be offered an interview. (Once you get to the interview you can also expect to be questioned in more detail about these skills!)
How to respond to questions about your skills and abilities
- On application forms, if the employer has not specified a word limit, write at least one to two paragraphs explaining how you have demonstrated a particular skill or quality.
- Analyse each question or criterion to identify the skills and attributes being rated then think of scenarios from work, study, volunteering, sports and other activities that could be used to illustrate your skill.
- Use a different example for each response and structure your response to key selection criteria and behavioural questions using the STAR model.
SAMPLE RESPONSE TO A BEHAVIORAL QUESTION ABOUT SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Describe how your personal planning and organisation resulted in the successful achievement of a task.
I have developed excellent organisational skills through my part-time job as an event assistant at Acme Events. In this role I am responsible for booking staff to set up marquees at private functions. [Situation]
To do this job I need to identify all jobs booked for that day; calculate how many staff are needed to set up each event; and ensure that there is sufficient time to set up each event by the time required. [Task]
Last month I discovered that one of the sales staff had booked an event, but forgot to enter the booking into the system so I had to arrange the marquee set up at very short notice. To avoid being short staffed, I had already taken the initiative to develop a database of staff available at short notice. This allowed me to book staff quickly and as I had already created the schedule for the event staff to follow, it was too late to make changes and communicate these to all staff. [Action]
The result was that the marquee was set up in time, and I prevented a major disruption to the customers’ event. My supervisor was very impressed with my preparation and the way I resolved the issue, and gave me some movie tickets as a small reward. [Result]
- Think about the questions employers ask on application forms (and elsewhere) as a chance to tell them about your skills, strengths, interests and personality.
- Research commonly asked general and behavioural questions.
- Practice thoughtful, concise responses – in writing and by rehearsing them aloud.