SUM IT UP
Feeling daunted by the prospect of filling in application forms and wondering what information recruiters are really looking for? Real World speaks to a handful of companies who reveal how to answer those tricky application form questions
Corus: "Give details of a situation when you have worked in a team environment."
THEY SAY: "We’re obviously looking for good teamwork here. This could perhaps be something they experienced through work placements or if they belong to any university or sports societies. We are not really looking out for academic examples from university here, but ideally something else you can offer. Other examples that would help you stand out would be voluntary work, or if you have been travelling and could use your skills and knowledge from that. When answering this question, you must demonstrate that you are a good team player, have led initiative and taken the initiative to throw in ideas and see how they overcame any difficulties they may have found during the process. State what your key role in the end result of the group work was, and how you came to this result; was it a success or failure? One of the most important things is, however, to make sure you demonstrate how you work well with other people in a team and how you strive towards achieving your goal." Joe Hendry, Corus
When answering questions about ‘working in a team environment’, emphasise that you are able to, and enjoy, working with other people. Do not rush into giving an example, as recruiters do not want a list of group activities, as it is not necessarily the example that matters but the skills you used and what you learned. Don’t just say, "I was in a project at school once", or "I was in charge of the sport society; I loved telling everyone what to do all the time". One doesn’t show enough enthusiasm and the other demonstrates too much ego. Think about it carefully; some voluntary work in which you took initiative, managed to overcome difficulties that arose calmly and at the end of which you achieved success would be an excellent example.
ExxonMobil: "why are you interested in the functions or roles you are applying for?"
THEY SAY: "We ask this question to ensure the candidate has given some serious thought as to why he/she wishes to join that particular function. We expect good candidates will state something along the lines of: ‘My interest lies within the oil and gas sector [for example] and, in particular, the challenges facing the energy industry as a whole. I believe my problem-solving skills and innovative approach will contribute to ExxonMobil’s future success’." Lynda Wilson, ExxonMobil
WE SAY: Ideally you should think about the skills you have learnt and how you would use or adapt them within that role. Don’t just list the skills you have, but try to expand on them and give examples of when they came in useful. Instead of just saying, "I’m good at problem solving", think about why you believe this is the case, and note the positive effect this has had during your time at university.
Recruiters are mainly interested in what you will bring to their company so give them real examples of your successes and let them know that they would benefit from hiring you – basically, make a positive impression.
It is also important to want to work in an area that is of interest to you or will stimulate you. Finding a job that is enjoyable is essential as it will boost your enthusiasm as well as enabling you to work to your full potential.
Logica: "Which of your achievements or activities, not necessarily connected with your studies or work, has given you the most satisfaction, and why?"
THEY SAY: "In some ways these questions are like ‘tie-breakers’ and as such can be the final elements that clinch an assessment centre invitation. Use these areas to bring out skills you have gained that you can apply to working for LogicaCMG. Your involvement in sports activities can be used to highlight your team working skills. Your time as the social secretary at your halls of residence can demonstrate your planning and organisation skills.
We are looking for enthusiastic people, so show that you are enthusiastic about the achievement that has given you most satisfaction. Believe or not, we have had candidates respond to this question with ‘none’!" Gary Argent, UK Graduate Recruitment Manager, Logica
WE SAY: "Employers don’t want to hire brainy and intelligent people with no social skills, they’re looking for well-rounded individuals who have made the most of their time at university. Equally, they don’t just want people to say, "I had an excellent time at university, I was part of the football, basketball and cricket teams and also wrote for the student newspaper and had a show at the radio station". It is important that you demonstrate your ability to analyse your achievements and provide tangible examples explaining what you have learnt from your experiences and how they have shaped your development. The key word is ‘your’.
Too many people make the mistake of selling themselves short and describing the achievements of an entire group using ‘we’. It’s not the group that is applying for a job, it’s you. Be proud and detail what an interesting person you really are.