Never leave a question blank. Leaving questions blank or writing NA is cited as one of the biggest mistakes a candidate can make in an application form. So unless it is explicitly stated e.g. answer question 1 OR 2 then always answer the question. This includes any questions that might seem optional. This can be tricky with competency based questions, if you really can’t think of an example that fits you need to employ some problem solving skills and adapt a situation to show its relevance!
Don’t repeat what’s in your CV. Never copy and paste from your CV, they’ve read your CV and copying and pasting from it will reflect badly on your communication skills and look lazy.
Use key words. There will be key words in the job specifications that describe a skill essential to the role i.e. the role requires a high level of accuracy and attention to detail. Pick out all of these key words and make sure you use them within your answers.
Answer the question. Sometimes the question will be complicated with many separate questions within it, make sure you answer each part directly and fully.
Watch the word count. You want to stick as close to the word count as you can. Never write an answer which is less than 85% of the word count and never go over by more than a word or two. Sometimes the word count will be very tight, this is to test your writing and communication skills as much as anything else. The best way to deal with this is to write your answer out fully and then go back and make it more concise.
Be honest. It is very tempting to lie in application forms, particularly with the competency based questions, don’t do it. You will likely be asked questions on your answer and under the stress of an interview situation you will probably give away that you were lying. A bit of gentle exaggeration is as far as you should ever go.
Take your time. Unless you are applying for the job only hours away from the deadline take your time answering application forms. Think about your answers carefully and ask other people for their input. Once you’ve completed the form save it and return to it the next day before sending it off, sleeping on it might give you better insight and a clearer view of what you are trying to communicate.
Get someone to proof read it. Again just like with CVs and cover letters, spelling mistakes come up time and time again. While you will probably be forgiven one spelling mistake in an application form more than two and you might have blown it. So write your answers on a word processor with a spelling and grammar check and ask someone to read it through before you send it off.
Always save your answers. Application form questions are very similar and while of course you can’t just swap one for another your answers will be similar too. So save all your application forms, particularly the ones where you got through to the next stage. They’ll provide you with a great resource to help you write better answers in the future.
Read through your answers before the interview. If you get to interview they may want you to expand on certain aspects of your application form, so it’s a good idea to refresh your knowledge of what you wrote beforehand.
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