Skip to content

Top tips for tackling a ‘competency based’ application form

A person completing an application form on a laptop

There are many different types of job application forms but often employers will use a ‘competency based’ form to help them find the right person. A work coach from Jobcentre Plus shares their tips on how to tackle this type of application…

“Competency based application forms commonly ask you to write 250-300 words on various different ‘competencies’ – for example, decision making, problem solving or team working.

“This can be daunting, but it’s also a great opportunity to really sell yourself to a prospective employer. Here are my tips on how to tackle this kind of form:

  • Competency based applications often have lots of different sections and can take quite some time to complete – by this I mean several days, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time.
  • Create a Word document to draft each answer before transferring it to the application form. You can use this as a place to put down all your ideas before shaping them into a response.
  • Don’t go over the word limit for each section. You may have lots of great examples, but the word limit is also there to see if you can write in a clear and concise way. At the same time, make sure you write enough to show you have the skills required!
  • For each competency, you should draw on any personal achievements that demonstrate you have the necessary skills. As a rule of thumb, outline the scenario, describe the specific actions you took, and say what the outcome was.
  • It’s good practice to keep referring back to the job description when drafting your responses. This can help you to keep your answers relevant and to the point.
  • Always check your spelling and grammar before submitting your application. Ask someone you trust to proof read it for you. They might be able to tell you if your responses are convincing and flow well, or even suggest small changes to help sharpen them up.

“Competency based applications forms can be time consuming, but it’s well worth putting in the effort. Once you’ve done one you’ll have a template for others. But never simply recycle an application without tailoring it to a specific job. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. Good luck!”

The National Careers Service website offers further guidance on filling an application form (external website).

Go back to ‘Make your CV stand out’