The Competency Based application form is a key part of the recruitment process in the Irish Public Sector and Civil Service. Unlike CVs where there is a need to manage how much information you give away, lest the key factors become lost, the application form requires a different approach. In an application form we are combining biographical information with demonstrations of our behaviours and depicting examples of where we performed well in specific scenarios. The biographical information is standard and will echo any CV, but often recruiters want to integrate all of your information into one central document.
However, the most important part of the application form is by far the competencies. Not only do competency examples give the panel an idea of who they will be interviewing, but often they are the first impression the panel has of you along with forming the basic framework for the interview. Depending on the level of the role you are applying for, the number of competencies will vary as obviously will the nature of them. But they fall in to a number of specific categories, the most common ones are listed below.
The above is not an exhaustive list and often departments will amalgamate some of these competencies together. Each competency seeks to identify specific traits about the you. The interview board wants to know more about the individual you are as opposed to things they can learn from your resume. It is important to give evidence of your ability under these sections to inform their final decision. It is also important to note that this information needs to be specific and pertain to actual events or a situation. There is a rule of writing fiction that also applies to application forms: show don’t tell. There is no use in merely saying that you are great at making decisions or an accomplished. That won’t cut it as you are demonstrating very little by doing so. The interview board need you to tell a story. Another mistake people make is writing something like, ‘I used my leadership skills to manage the situation’. Again, here this depicts very little. What we want to know is how you used these skills? What were the specific actions you took as a leader? Did you speak to people directly about difficult topics, open up a culture of transparency? By getting into more detail here, you really prepare yourself to stand out and properly demonstrate your capacity.
To compete with the rest you must learn from the best.
The next question is how do we organise this information? What comes first and how can we ensure we are hitting on all of the requirements. Application forms often come with information about the role, where the department will break down the meaning behind each competency. This can be of great value in building a narrative. There is often no right or wrong answer when it comes to preparing competencies. But the guidelines will give you a general idea of the direction you need to go in. What we are looking for is easily digestible information that will depict you in a positive light.
Keep in mind also that the board will question you more on these competencies once you get in front to them. We offer interview coaching to help you deliver these stories as impactfully as you can verbally, but in an application form, these need to be written. Obviously preparing a good application form will greatly assist you in the next stage, as your examples will be well set out and easy to access and expand upon. The STAR technique is a simple and trusted method to help us deliver information verbally and can structure the depiction of a given scenario very well in the application form. STAR can also cross over well into the interview itself as you use it to guide you through the process.
Keep in mind, however, that the key objective of the application form is to get you an interview. It is instrumental in this regard and needs to be given the work it requires. In H-Training’s experience candidates who give application forms the time typically get better results and it allows you more time to prepare and build the narrative and argument around why you should be selected. We have been preparing application forms for 30 years and are keenly aware of what interview boards want and don’t want and furthermore how to produce a form that helps you stand out from the crowd.