Why is an application form so important?
An application form is your first chance to sell yourself. It tells the company about your qualifications, work experience, why you are right for the job and plenty more which we will go into shortly. Typically a graduate recruiter will review your application form before your resume if you have been requested to complete one (of which most companies will).
Do I need to put effort into my form?
Short answer –YES. The form has been designed (often specifically for just that job) so the recruiter or HR representative can makes choices quickly and efficiently in line with what they are looking for. You must answer all the questions, consciously and directly. If you have free text questions, answer the questions with care and diligence, it is essential that you read the question clearly and directly answer the questions, there is no need to write an essay- typically 4-5 lines are ideal. Be honest and do not lie as you will be worked out. Don’t leave anything blank or put n/a. Companies can tell the difference between those who have put in effort and those who have not. We want to see that you have put in the effort to want to work for us.
Don’t forget the basics: spelling, grammar & leave yourself enough time to complete the form. The average application form takes about an hour, some even more. Have everything ready prior to starting, such as your resume, cover letter & transcript to upload. Where possible, allow passion, drive & desire to come through in your answers.
What can I expect to see on an application form?
All companies ask different questions, typically you will always need to confirm your qualifications, average course grade, when you graduate(d), working rights (including visa evidence where required), some government jobs may also ask questions around your history/ criminal history.
Almost all companies will also want to hear about your work experience- what you have done and potentially any achievements, leadership opportunities you have undertaken, extracurricular activities you are involved in, volunteer or charity work, internships completed, university/college or life achievements.
If you are reading between the lines, you’ll come to the conclusion companies are looking for well-rounded graduates, with life experience as well as activities and achievements outside of university or college.
You may also be asked behavioural based or motivational fit questions. Behavioural based questions should be answered using the STAR -Situation, Task, Action & Results methodology.
Some example questions are below:
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why have you applied to this position?
- What can you bring to this position?
- What are your aspirations beyond this job?
- How do you see the future of our company or industry?
- How has your education prepared you for your career?
- How do you evaluate success?
- Give us an example of a situation where you didn’t meet your goals or objectives?
- Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer. How did you handle the situation?
What are they looking for?
Prior to applying ensure you understand the industry and company you are applying for.
Banks, The Big 4, Consulting firms, Commerce and Industry in the form of SME’s or Big business? All are looking for similar and different attributes in their potential graduates.
Typically, companies have similar under lying traits and qualities that they hold essential to hiring a graduate or intern for any program. Some of these are:
- Customer Focused
- Strong interpersonal communication skills
- Drive, passion and enthusiasm
- Critical and lateral thinker
- Future people or technical leaders
- Career and future focused
- Agile and flexible
- Confident (not over confident) and able to liaise and communicate across different levels
- Values and cultural fit
- Emotional intelligence
- Team player and collaborator
- Analytical thinker
- Ability to interpret data
Assess yourself and see what traits you feel you possess, do not possess or want to develop further. Then set goals for yourself to see how you can either gain experience or knowledge in those you want to develop further and get started on bridging the gap. If you struggle, this exercise is best done with someone you can reflect with such as a boss, mentor, teacher or parent.
How are they going to measure me?
This one certainly isn’t a straight forward answer. Some companies use a scoring methodology, some base it on which university or college you went to and what your grades were. Some are all about passion, desire and personality fit and some look for future potential. You need to know which traits and qualities the companies you apply to are looking for and start tailoring. Most companies have it posted on their graduate page/ careers website or you can simply ask them.
For example, customer based companies such as services providers or banks will have a strong focus on customer service, therefore ensure you display the trait of positive customer ethos and display the traits of the company. Big 4 firms such as KPMG or PWC may be looking for traits such as strong communication skills, agile and critical thinkers, therefore adapt your answers in line with these traits.
There is no definitive way for you to know exactly how they are going to measure you at each stage, however if you are very very well prepared, answer every question with passion and drive, be engaging and understand every single interaction (including an invite over the phone to an assessment) is being judged, then you will go a long way to ensuring you do the right things during each stage.
- Don’t under estimate the importance of completing your application form to the highest standard you can.
- Show passion, drive and enthusiasm- yes you can do this through your words!
- Check for spelling, grammar and mistakes- an assessor maydecline you based on poor grammar.
- Preparation is key to success- know your company (yes every single one you apply for), what they do, the challenges they face, their values and cultural drivers and what traits or skills they are looking for in an ideal graduate.
UC Grad Recruiter.