Online Application Forms
The Application Form
Your first opportunity to communicate your skills and motivations to potential employers is the application form. It is often a combination of questions asking personal information, education and work history, situational examples and your business awareness. With a bit of preparation, the application form can be a great chance to get ahead in the application process.
The science behind the form
The most important thing to remember in the internship application process is that it is at least partially competency-based. This means that you are being assessed on the competencies that you have and the ways in which you can demonstrate them, rather than your skills.
“But I have no competencies!” Well, this may be true - but chances are it isn’t! A competency is a behavioural trait - and behaviour is how you go about your everyday life. Consequently, everyone has examples of their competencies and behaviours, and so you are at an advantage if you understand what yours are and how you can best communicate them in your application.
Filling it in
Filling out application forms can be a time consuming process, however for convenience, most application forms allow you to save and return to them later. When filling out your application, make sure you give yourself enough time, a quiet place to work and your personal details to hand.
A company will often list between 4-8 competencies that they are looking for in all of their new and experienced hires - these competencies are not secret information - they are usually either listed on the company website or can be identified through a quick call to the graduate recruiting team. To give yourself an advantage before you apply, list the competencies that a company are looking for, and define 2 or 3 examples of situations where you have demonstrated each competency. A common error is for applicants to talk about the best examples that they have, rather than the examples that best demonstrate the competency that the company is looking for.
When thinking about your examples, then the same situation might often be used to demonstrate a number of different competencies. If the same example could be used to illustrate teamwork, leadership, drive and resilience and communication, then it helps to be aware of which competencies the person reading your application will be most on the look for. You may have a complete and diverse arsenal of examples to use, but if you do not use the right ones in the right places at the right time and in the right way – then you may not get past the first hurdle!
The main opportunity that you have to demonstrate your competencies within an application form is when completing the situational questions. Situational questions require you to talk about a previous situation that you have found yourself in.
“But I've never really done anything worth talking about!” This is an often used phrase - out aloud or in your head - when people thinking about applying for a graduate job or internship. The thing to remember is that companies are not necessarily looking for great examples, such as having run your own multi-million pound business or worked in conservation in the rainforest, but they are looking for examples in your everyday life where you have demonstrated a competency that they want - even if it is not in a work situation.
Examples of situational questions:Please describe a time when you have had to convince someone to your way of thinking.
The competencies that may be tested in this question are: Communication, influencing, persuasion
Can you describe a time that you have had to work under pressure to accomplish a set goal?
The competencies that may be tested in this question are: Drive and resilience, results oriented, commitment
It’s a good idea to balance your responses to situational questions with academic and extra-curricular examples. If you have been involved with sports teams, societies such as Bright Futures or AIESEC, cultural societies or university JCRs, all give you many opportunities to live examples of situations in which you have used the competencies that companies are looking for. If you think that you haven't done much outside of academia, think about your day-to-day family life, your interactions with your friends and times when you've been challenged. Often the best demonstration of communication is that you can listen to someone and talk to then on the same wavelength, and so good examples can often come from simply being a good friend or relative!
One of the most important things to remember about application forms is not to embellish the truth. The application form is often the basis for questions and exercises at both assessment centres and interviews, and so any false or exaggerated information that you provide will often be found out here - and often means that although you get through the first round, you would have wasted a lot of time when you get rejected at a later stage!
Once you submit your application - pre screening
Due to the sheer volume of applications that companies receive, some pre-screen application forms using an on-line system. Although this can seem unfair, it can in fact play to your advantage as the system can be set-up to pick out specific words or phrases that characterise the competencies that the company are looking for. Certain buzzwords can help you demonstrate your competencies in a certain area.
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