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SOAS SKILLS SESSIONS

HOW TO WRITE EFFECTIE


APPLICATION FORMS
Monday, 3 September 2012

Victoria Wade
Careers Consultant

Objectives of this session:


To understand:
Why employers use application forms
Why specific questions are being asked
How to structure effective answers.
To practise answering specific questions.

Why do organisations use application


forms?
Increased control of the process
Focus on relevant areas
Candidates are compared on a like-for-like basis
Deters those not prepared to take on the task

Types of question
Motivational
Explain why youre interested in a career in and in particular,
working for us. What work experience have you undertaken to demonstrate
your interest? (250 words) (Nestle)

Biographical
For each position, describe your role and responsibilities, telling us about
any areas of key specific responsibility and/or leadership (100 words). (BP)
List the extra-curricular activities you have been involved in during the
last 3 years including the activity type, dates and your
contribution/achievement (Max. 3,000 characters). (Barclays Cap.)

Types of question:
Industry specific
What is the brand that you most admire in the world? Why?
(Advertising agency, 150 words)
In what ways does Accenture use technology to help its clients improve
their business? (3,000 characters).

Competency based: look at past behaviour as a guide to


future performance
Give a recent example of a team in which you have been involved.
What was your role? What challenges did you face? (100 words)
Describe a time when you spotted an opportunity and made it happen?
(Unilever, 500 words)

Common competency requirements

Communication skills

Teamwork skills

Commercial awareness/ Business


acumen

Enthusiasm & motivation

Flexibility and adaptability

Planning, organisation and


time management skills

Interpersonal skills

Initiative
Independence
Problem-solving skills

Examples of competencies

Analysis and problem solving skills


Collaborative
Good communication skills
A strong customer focus
Performance, drive and results
Planning and organisational skills

Drive for results


Learning and improving
Decision-making
Constructive thinking

Building productive relationships


Communicating with impact

Make your mark in advertising


BrandsDirect are a well established but expanding
advertising agency looking for trainee account managers to
work with our exciting portfolio of clients.
Whilst no previous experience is required, we are looking
for graduates who have a passion for this business. You
must be able to build relationships, manage multiple
projects and make the right decisions in what is a
stimulating but pressured environment.
If you think you have what it takes, convince us with
answers to the following questions..

Motivational:
Q1) Why do you want to work for our advertising agency? (200 words)

Competency:
Q2) Describe how you have achieved a goal through influencing the
actions or opinions of others in a team. (175 words)

For, each question, what criteria would you use to assess the
answers given?

Motivational question.demonstrate your


interest.
Your knowledge of.the companys products, services, clients,
values.
The research youve done? Who youve talked to?
What has the company done recently?
What does the press say about the company?
How does it differ from its competitors?

Why do you want to work for our advertising agency? (200


words)
Candidate A
Your organisation is an award-winning leader in its field, employing 3,000
people globally. It has an international reputation and is also one of the
most respected agencies in the UK. It is important for me to work for a
successful organisation and I would welcome all the different opportunities
available to me. I would also like to work abroad at some point and so the
global nature of your organisation appeals to me. Finally, Id like to work
for the organisation because the role matches my skills, particularly my
communication and teamwork skills. I am a creative person and I am also
interested in developing new skills, and believe that your graduate account
management scheme would help me to achieve my goals. (122 words)

Candidate B
I have researched BrandDirects client-base and am extremely excited by
the thought of working for prestigious brands such as Continental and
LOreal. I have been following your recent campaign for the LOreal Paris
brand with a great deal of interest. I am particularly attracted to the
creative hot-house reputation of the agency as described in Campaign
Magazines agency profile of 27 April.
My skills are a good match for the position of account manager. I have
recently been involved with the innovative re-branding strategy of the
student union through a diverse range of media channels, which will help
me to assume responsibility for high-profile campaigns from an early
stage. My organisation skills greatly improved during this time, where I
worked with a range of colleagues to extremely tight production
schedules. After examining your website and attending your presentation
at SOAS, I understand the value of good organisational skills in order to
successfully manage client campaigns.
Finally I have also been impressed by the honesty and enthusiasm of
recently recruited trainees I met at this years SOAS Careers Fair who
spoke very highly of the creative culture at BrandsDirect. (199 words)

Q2) Describe how you have achieved a goal


through influencing the actions or opinions
of others in a team. (175 words)
Candidate A
At my internship at LHS Marketing in July 2008, I was asked if I could assist
in the development of the new website. I was asked for my opinion as a
fresh pair of eyes and then joined the team of 8 who were developing the
site. After doing a considerable amount of research of competitive sites, I
had a number of ideas including incorporating a pop-up menu of up-andcoming events. Some of the team were sceptical of this idea due to the
user backlash against pop-up advertising. The general feeling was that
pop-ups were no longer effective and could actually alienate visitors. This
was discussed in several meetings, and I was convinced that this would
be an effective strategy. I showed them some design ideas and eventually
they agreed to give it a try in the events sections. I then designed the
pop-up to promote various events and some of them have been used.
(155 words)

Candidate B
At LHS Marketing in July 2008, I assisted in the development of the
new website. I took it upon myself to conduct an audit of similar
sites and presented my findings to the development team,
recommending the use of pop-ups to advertise forthcoming events.
Mindful of industry scepticism regarding their use, I used the initial
project briefing as an opportunity to find out exactly what others
objections might be. Based on this, I decided to answer those
objections in detail, researched available data on the area, prepared
visual design ideas and presented my case. Despite the teams
initial concerns, I persuaded them to allocate funds for an initial trial
period, after which we would review the success of the pilot
programme. This compromise seemed to work.
The resulting click-through rates were encouraging and the pop-ups
are now a permanent addition to the website having proved a
successful way of promoting attendance at our events. (154 words)

Candidate B
At LHS Marketing in July 2008, I assisted in the development of the new website. I took
it upon myself to conduct an audit of similar sites and presented my findings to the
development team, recommending the use of pop-ups to advertise forthcoming
events.
Mindful of industry scepticism regarding their use, I used the initial project briefing as an
opportunity to find out exactly what others objections might be. Based on this, I
decided to answer those objections in detail, researched available data on the area,
prepared visual design ideas and presented my case. Despite the teams initial
concerns, I persuaded them to allocate funds for an initial trial period, after which we
would review the success of the pilot programme. This compromise seemed to work.
The resulting click-through rates were encouraging and the pop-ups are now a
permanent addition to the website having proved a successful way of promoting
attendance at our events. (154 words)

How to answer a competency based question


STAR
Situation: whats the setting/ background to the story?
Task: what was the task/objective?
Action: what did you do? emphasis here
what did you have to think about
what was your approach/ steps involved
how did you overcome any problems you encountered
pick up on active verbs eg planned, negotiated, listened
Result what was the outcome?

Tell me about a time when you showed good


organisational skills and the ability to plan effectively.

Typical competency question scoring


Low scores: 1 & 2

High scores: 3 & 4

took action without developing a


plan

evidence of planning and


prioritising

no evidence of prioritising
failed to evaluate and manage

tools used to achieve e.g.


milestones/ daily schedules

resources appropriately
missed important deadlines
failed to cope with difficulties

anticipated resource needs and


used effectively e.g. delegation
consistently beat tight deadlines
extra commitment if necessary
coping strategies when things go
wrong

NatCen Social Research


Graduate Research Trainee
Please use the space below to say why you think you are suited to this post and what
qualities you would bring to it. Please add any other relevant information about your
interests and experience that has not been covered elsewhere on this form. (Max 700
words)

Specific Competencies: Competency and definitions specific to this role.


Research Methods: An understanding of research methods that is consistent
the function and level of the role
Communication: Ability to communicate clearly, in different styles and for
audiences (including reporting).

with

different

Project Management: Able to coordinate, manage and juggle a range of project


tasks.
Customer focus: Acts with clients needs in mind and values the importance
providing high quality customer service. Behaves professionally
and builds
effective relationships with clients.

of

Team work: Is able to work successfully as part of a team and build productive
relationships.
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Applying Online
download the form and assess requirements
plan your approach and do your research
complete the more straightforward areas
break down the harder questions
brainstorm possible examples and decide on most appropriate
draft - evaluate refine to keep to word count
get a second opinion
apply early but submit only when ready

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Top Tips
be presentable and precise
follow instructions exactly (eg word count)/ answer all questions or state N/A
layout, handwriting, grammar & spelling etc (visual appearance is important)

be relevant and specific


more relevant: more space,
dont waffle, no vague assertions (egs, facts, figures, give evidence)

be personal
provide own perspective rather than readily available information
detail research sources

be positive
make points assertively (if mistakes, say what learned)
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SOAS careers service website

www.soas.ac.uk/careers

www.careerstagged.co.uk

Come in to the careers service and get your applications checked


room G12
(sign-up on the day or by telephone 0207 898 4115)
Mon-Tues 2.00-4.30pm Career Adviser
Weds-Fri 2.00pm-4.30pm CV and Application help

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