Part 2b: The Employer Application Form In Detail
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EAF's vary greatly from company to company, and depending on the job that you are aiming at. However, they all tend to look for three sorts of information to glean from the candidates responses. These may be divided into these three categories:
(a) Factual information - this is the standard stuff usually at the start of the form that is simply a little time consuming to fill in. For instance, name, date of birth and so on. Then there is usually a section asking you to list your GCSE/A-level/degree qualifications, or other academic achievements, as relevant. Also extra-curricular activities are usually asked for so they can see if there is a balance to your life and what your other interests are.
(b) Analytical - these are those annoying questions(!), well the awkward ones anyway. They are time consuming and need to be thought about carefully before you give your response. These are often the ones that are picked up upon at interview, so you need to think about them carefully, and they are often used to decide which of two candidates of similar ability are called to interview, if it is not practical to interview both, as is often the case, both in terms of time and finances involved to interview both candidates - these days less and less candidates are interviewed, so although it may seem daunting and frustrating, it really is best to think a lot about these questions before and during answering them. They certainly need to be drafted out first.
These questions usually start with 'how do you?...', 'give an example of a time when you have...', 'what did you do, how did you do it?', 'what would you do if?' and other awkward sounding open questions.
What are these questions there for, apart from to frustrate you when you first see them? Well, they are there broadly to whittle down the applicants, since they test whether or not you:
- show that you understand yourself to some degree
- sound like a person that the selectors want to meet
- show you possess the skills needed to succeed in the sort of job you've applied for
- show that there is more to yourself than your academic qualifications
- show your ability to think clearly and logically
Thus when when you see the questions try and think why they are being asked - what sort of information would make you want to meet the candidate? Be true to yourself and give an honest answer - you may well be asked about what you wrote at interview and they will be able to spot it if you have told one white lie too many. if you didn't really single-handedly convince the local tennis club to change all its financial policies by a glittering speech at the AGM then don't say that you did.
Questions under the analytical bracket could be to do with a whole variety of issues. These include extra-curricular activities - perhaps hobbies, music, clubs, societies. For instance, they may ask for a time when you had a post of responsibility, a time when you were challenged as a member of a team and how you resolved the issue.
They may ask about your chosen career - do you possess the skills to succeed? Questions may be asked to try and find this out.
Questions may also be asked about teamworking - particularly important these days, with more and more companies stressing this as an essential, and spending lots of money training people to bond by sending them on holidays and other such activity courses. This is because research has shown, not unexpectedly, that a happy, efficient team works much better together, is more efficient and more cost effective, than a team in which there is discordance and members do not work and function as a unit. Therefore they need to know that you are capable of being a good team player and have the necessary skills to function as part of their team. Therefore questions may be asked about the times when you have been a member of a team, what you had to do, and there may also be questions there about conflict resolution and how you helped to achieve a compromise.
So how on earth do you answer all these questions? Well, remember that the point of the questions is to allow the company to decide whether you match their criteria. So, look at the recruitment literature to find out what the skills they are looking for are. Then try your best to show them that you possess these skills in your answer.
Make a list of all the experiences that you have had that you think may be relevant. Try and pick out evidence of the qualities that they want to be displayed, without engineering or forcing the answer too much. When you find the most natural fit amongst your experiences, then you should structure an answer around this.
What if I really can't think of anything?
If this is the case, then you have two options. You can either make something up - not recommended, since it is very hard to successfully carry this off - remember that you will probably be probed about this at interview, and it is not a good idea to be dishonest. So, that option dismissed, what else can you do? well, the other option is to ask your friends and family - they may well jog your memory about something that you didn't realise fitted the criteria, or had simply forgotten about. Show them the question and see if they can think of the sort of thing that would fit as an answer - more often than not, soon enough you will find something that fits. Remember not to be modest in your answer - they want to see that you possess the requisite skills, so show them that you do!
(c) Then there will also be information collected of an administrative nature - referees, medical questions, ethnic origin, signature. Remember that what you sign to must be true, else you face serious disciplinary action and dismissal. Incentive enough to ensure that you tell the truth! We really do strongly recommend that you do not lie at all on your application form. As a point of interest, you would be amazed at the number of people that do outright lie about their qualifications particularly. This is because very few employers bother to check for your exam certificates; many, many people get away with saying that they got much higher grades at school or college or university than they in fact did. Think about it - in the jobs that you have had so far, have your qualifications ever been checked? however, the satisfaction of getting a job is surely much greater if you get it having done so honestly and on your own merits, rather than through pretending that you are someone else than you are.
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