When completing application forms, how do you feel about them? For most, it can be an anxious and somewhat daunting experience, which often includes a combination of dread and boredom. However, what do you need to know in order to make it through? Well, below we have offered some excellent pointers and examples to help demystify the experience!

Make it easy for the shortlister

Notice what the organisation or service is asking for within the essential and desirable job description. You will often have clues that you can use, such as using the headings:

  • Relevant experience
  • Achievements
  • Relevant competencies from the person specification
  • Essential experiences
  • Skills

Analyse the person specification and BE CLEAR

“Go through the job and worker descriptions and extract the key criteria they are looking for. When filling in the application form, place each criterion as a heading and use examples from practice to demonstrate how you have met those criteria. It may seem simplistic but if you are explicit that you are suitable for the job role, then an interview is guaranteed.” Source: Guardian.

General Competency questions in Application Forms 

  • Describe a situation when you lead a team/worked in a team
  • Give an example of a time when you dealt with confrontation
  • Describe a situation when you influenced or motivated others
  • Describe a situation when you used initiative
  • Give an example of when you solved a problem
  • Give an example of how you have applied knowledge of legislation in a social work setting.
  • How you would you seek to promote independence for service users
  • Give an example of a time when you acted in an anti-oppressive way.
  • What factors do you consider when making an assessment?
  • What factors do you consider when assessing risk?

If you are completing several application forms at once, as is often the case, you can use the above headings to create a ‘bulk answer’ crib sheet. This will help you evidence your work consistently whilst also reducing chances of you becoming complacent.

Use the STAR approach to help evidence examples

  • S – SITUATION – When, where, with whom (contextualise)
  • T – TASK – Describe the situation or task you want to offer as evidence
  • A – ACTION – What did you do? What was your contribution?  How did you make things happen?
  • R – RESULT – What was the result/outcome? (preferably positive) What did you learn?

Using the above formula will assist in offering structure to your answers, whilst also keeping them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timely. Be concise and to the point. Have a go: Pick a question and share a STAR example

Personal Statement strategies

Completing the personal statements/specifications section is by far the most difficult task to undertake in any application form. As such, develop strategies to help guide you through this processes. For example:

  • First sentence -make a short STATEMENT summarising how you meet the individual specification from job details.
  • Then provide an EXAMPLE of the claim you have just made.
  • Final sentence – show REFLECTION on the above – what you realise.

Example – Specification requirement – about commitment to promoting Equal Opportunities:

‘I have always tried to ensure in my personal and work life that I am sensitive to and inclusive of the cultures and circumstances of other people. In 2006, I worked as a mentor/facilitator to a group of students on the Aim Higher project to encourage pupils from non-traditional backgrounds to consider university. I designed projects and activities that recognised and focused on the diverse experience within the group to ensure participation. The programme was successful for the pupils and a rewarding learning experience for me. The experience showed me that working together with mutual respect is more productive and rewarding.’

We hope this has offered you with some useful guidance in relation to application form completion. Please feel free to download or save a copy of this. The above information has been used and delivered to Social Work Students, Social Workers and Return Social Workers as well as Care Professionals so as to help increase employment opportunities.

We have also completed the following guidance