Challenging application form questions

Why do you want this job?

  • This is all about your motivation for the role on offer.
  • List approximately 3 key points that are acceptable to the recruiter and are persuasive.
  • Use your answer to demonstrate your knowledge of the job role.
  • Make sure you don’t miss out any fundamental aspects of the job role, e.g. a professional qualification that will require a large amount of time and commitment.
  • Make your points explicit and clear as employers don’t know everything.

Why do you want to work for this organisation?

  • This focuses on your motivation for the organisation and your interests in it.
  • Again, focus on about 3 key points to maintain impact and that are acceptable to discuss.
  • Look at it from the point of view of the role you are apply too so you can describe the organisation in relation to that role.
  • Explore beyond the graduate recruitment information for your answers or you won’t stand out.

What would you bring to the job? How will you add value to the organisation?

  • This asks you to identify the key ways in which you will bring relevant skills, knowledge and abilities to the organisation and to describe them in a results-focused way. So if you will bring good leadership skills, you will need to describe these in terms of a particular aspect of the job where you will be expected to lead and to describe how you would do it differently to other candidates.
  • The key is to prioritise the most important things to write and how many to maintain impact and provide enough depth and detail.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

  • What are your biggest selling points? What makes you unique and helps you to stand out? You need to walk into the interview with these firmly in your mind and to make sure that they appear on the application form in some shape or form.

Give me an example of where you have worked in a team, solved a challenging problem, motivated someone…

  • This is the classic behavioural question you will see on application forms and at interview.
  • It can be applied to any skill or piece of experience.
  • Try using the STARL method to answer it to give you a well rounded, concise response which focuses on results.
  • Use your best example.
  • Try to ensure you incorporate what you learned from the experience in order to demonstrate that you are someone who naturally takes responsibility for their own development.

Give an example of an organisation that you admire and one that is underperforming

  • This is designed to test your knowledge of the sector and your understanding of how you know a business is performing or not and what its key performance indicators are.
  • This is particularly important where the role will require some commercial awareness.
  • If you are new to this form of analysis, try to read up on the basics of how to measure company performance by using the great advice on Business Link (
  • You will be asked more about your responses at interview, so try to avoid getting into too much detail and complexity.

What is your greatest achievement?

  • This question invites you to show the interviewer how successful you have been. Your choice of example here will show the heights of what you have achieved without the interviewer delving into large amounts of your experience.
  • Recruiters don’t expect everyone to have climbed Everest or sailed around the world. Equally though they don’t expect you to identify achieving a 2.i as an outstanding achievement as the majority of their applicants will have done this.
  • Think of something personal to you where you have excelled or overcome a difficulty. If the example can have an external, finite measure of your achievement, all the better, but not all examples have this.
  • As long as you can justify it as a personal achievement then it is a good example.

Give me an example of where you have overcome a significant challenge or difficulty

  • This question aims to focus on how you cope with tough times. Do you succeed or do you crumble? Can you learn from the situation? What type of situation you find challenging also reveals a lot about you and your potential weaknesses, so be careful which example you choose.
  • Your example doesn’t have to show you responding and performing perfectly, but it shouldn’t show flaws that are highly relevant to the job.
  • The key is to show what you managed to do and what you may have done differently if you had your time again and what you learned from the situation.

Describe your career aspirations

  • This is attempting to get an indication of your longer term career goals.
  • Your career aspirations are allowed to be only partly formed. You may have some clear options ahead of you and there are two that you want to investigate. This is perfectly acceptable in terms of how decided you are, but make sure these options are acceptable to the employer or you may talk yourself out of the job. You may feel you need further advice on this matter from someone who works in the sector or a careers adviser.
  • Whatever they are state them succinctly, enthusiastically and clearly.

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