Careers Service

Writing effective applications

Information, advice and resources to help you answer the questions, including our concise guides and how to get feedback.

Many employers will ask you to complete application forms instead of, or in addition to, providing a CV. They are most commonly used to ensure a systematic way of comparing candidates. Forms also allow large employers recruiting for graduate programmes to process applications faster, and they will include very specific questions.

What types of questions will I be asked?

Every application form is different but there are certain types of questions that are commonly used. The most common types are competency and open-ended questions. Use our guides to help you understand how to answer these questions.

How do I answer competency questions?

These are sometimes called skills based or analytical questions. They require you to provide evidence of a particular skill you have and where you developed it. Our short guide will help you to use the STAR (Situation Task Action Result) framework to answer competency questions on an application form.

Using the STAR technique in application forms

How do I answer open-ended questions?

These types of questions are more common in public sector recruitment or postgraduate study applications. Examples include: 'describe your reasons for wanting this position, giving relevance of previous education and experience' and 'please provide any other information you feel is relevant to your application'.

Our short guide includes advice and examples that will help you understand how to structure your response, to ensure that all parts of the question are answered, and that there is a logical flow to the answer.

Answering open-ended application questions

What about referees and references?

How many references do I need? Who should I ask? What if I don't have any work experience? What references do I need for a postgraduate course? Find the answers to these questions and more in our guide to Referees and References.

Referees and References

I’m an international student. How do I explain my international qualifications to employers?

You’ll find advice in our information resource:

Explaining UK and International Qualifications to Employers

Where can I find more information and advice?

Guides and examples

You can find more information and advice, including examples, on the graduate websites listed below:

Prospects: applying for jobs

TargetJobs: applications


During semester we run workshops on writing successful applications. Check the events section of MyCareerHub for details:

MyCareerHub - Events

How can I get feedback on my application?

Make an appointment on MyCareerHub for one-to-one application form feedback from one of our Careers Consultants or Careers Information Advisers:

MyCareerHub - Appointments

If you are repeatedly receiving job rejections from employers, have a look at our resource, Dealing with Job Rejection. It provides advice on how to cope with, and learn from, job rejection, at both application and interview stage. It also covers how to ask for interview feedback.

Dealing with Job Rejection

Related Information

Applications and CVs for academic jobs