How do you answer job application questions?
Last updated: 3 Jul 2023, 15:58
Find out how to answer graduate job and application questions, which ask you to provide written responses about your competencies and motivation for applying.
- Common job application form example answers
- How to structure job application answers
- More help from targetjobs
When applying for a graduate role, you may find that the application form contains questions that ask about your skills, experience, motivation for applying or a combination of these. These questions require thoughtful and considered answers and, typically, you’ll be allowed no more than 250 words to write each one.
In this guide, targetjobs provides you with example answers to a selection of common job application form questions. You can use these example answers and our tips on how to structure an answer as guidance for creating your own responses.
For advice on how to fill in all sections of an application form, see our article on filling in a job application form . And if you’re applying to internships, then head to our article on answering internship application form questions .
Common graduate job application form example questions and answers
Have a look at how we’ve answered the following common graduate job application form questions. Remember that you shouldn’t copy these example answers word for word.
- Why do you want to work at [company name] ?
- Why do you think you are suitable for this role ?
- What skills and experience do you have that will help you in the role ?
- What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing our company ?
- Describe a time when you have had to work with others to achieve a goal .
- Tell us about a recent project or task that you enjoyed working on .
Why do you want to work at [company name]?
Why the question is being asked: employers want to know that you’re applying to their company because that’s where you see yourself establishing a career – not because you’re reeling off job applications with the aim of accepting the first role you’re offered.
How to approach answering: your answer needs to be rooted in your employer research and should tie what you’ve learned about the company and the role to your career interests and aspirations. For example, does the company have sustainability or diversity and inclusion policies that resonate with you? Or, for instance, has the employer undertaken projects that you feel are beneficial to wider society and which you’d like to play a role in? Whatever reason you choose – be it sustainability credentials, impactful projects, the opportunity to gain professional qualifications or career progression prospects, to name but a few – you’ll need to explain why this specific aspect of the organisation appeals to you to demonstrate how a role there fits with your career plans.
Example answer: I want to work at [company name] because I believe that I will continually be challenged to develop my skills as a/an [job title]. Your core value of ‘self-development’ gives me this impression. It’s a value that resonates with me and one that I demonstrated throughout university as I improved my overall grade by 15% in second year and then by a further 8% come the end of my third and final year. I’m inspired by the range of projects you work on, which have used cutting-edge building techniques and have made a positive difference to the wider community. For example, the renovation of the [city name] shopping centre stood out to me as, not only were the building designs innovative, but the project also helped to boost the local economy. I want to be involved in industry-leading and meaningful projects such as this one.
Head to our article on answering ‘ why are you interested in this position? ’ for more tips on answering motivational questions.
Why do you think you are suitable for this role?
Why the question is being asked: employers want to find out whether you truly understand what the job involves – and then that you have sufficient self-knowledge and analytical skills to articulate why you would be right for the role.
How to approach answering: the key to your answer is to identify the experience(s) from your life that are most closely related to the requirements of the role and explain how this has helped prepare you. These experiences could come from any aspect or stage of your life: not just from your work experience and part-time jobs, but from your interests and hobbies, your university course, your home life or gap year.
Example answer: effective [job title] require good leadership and teamworking skills and my experience in both working in and leading a team will help me to succeed in the role. For example, as a committee member for my university theatre society, I came up with an idea to organise a talent show to raise funds. I was responsible for keeping the event preparations on track by maintaining an organised team of committee members and overseeing the smooth running of the event on the day. The event was a great success and we raised just shy of £1,000 net profit. Based on this rewarding experience of successfully completing a project as a member of a group, I believe that I would thrive in the role. I think this further supports me as being a strong candidate when you consider the team-based nature of the job.
For more tips, read our article on answering ‘ why do you think you’ll be successful in this job? ’. This is another way in which employers ask about your suitability for a role.
What skills and experience do you have that will help you in the role?
Why the question is being asked: this question is similar to the previous one as it gives you the opportunity to choose experiences from your life. However, pay attention to wording as this is where the distinction lies. Note that it is unlikely that you will be asked both questions in the same application form.
How to approach answering: think over the experiences you’ve had in the different areas of your life – for example, work, university and extracurriculars – and consider the ones which allowed you to develop the skills mentioned in the job description. Your research into the role should help you identify which of the listed qualities are paramount. This, in turn, will help you decide which of your experiences you provide in your answer.
Example answer: I am a committee member for my university hiking society and for the past two years have been responsible for designing the flyers, posters and social media content that we create to promote our fundraising events and trips. To do this, I’ve learned how to use digital design tools such as [tool names] and have honed my skills with them to an advanced level. When I’ve come across a technical design problem that I’ve struggled to resolve alone, I’ve reached out to students studying digital design at my university for help. This has helped me to improve my communication skills and self-awareness of when it’s time to ask for help. Although my degree is not in design, my digital design responsibilities for the hiking society over these past two years have allowed me to develop the technical design skills, interpersonal skills and a passion for digital design that I see as fundamental to the role. These traits will allow me to carry out the role to a high standard.
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Find advice for taking on the application form questions you could face.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our company right now?
Why the question is being asked: the employer is testing your commercial awareness, your understanding of its organisation and how you can link current social, economic and environmental affairs to it. This question also helps the employer to gain an insight into whether you understand how challenges faced today will influence the company’s future.
How to approach answering: the key to answering this question is to link a current affair to a core aspect(s) of the company’s operation and what you think the immediate and long-term ramifications are. A good answer will demonstrate your understanding of the impact on the company at both an organisational and role-specific level.
Example answer: the best help we can provide for responding to this question isn’t an example answer; it’s getting you thinking about how to link your commercial awareness to the employer. This is because every employer’s business model and organisational structure will differ and your answer needs to reflect the specific organisation you’re applying to.
For instance, take the fashion industry and the growing demand for it to become more sustainable. How would this affect a retailer whose business model is based on high-volume sales of budget clothing lines compared to a retailer whose business model revolves around the sale of second-hand clothing and clothing made from recycled textiles? How would these companies be impacted by changes to suitability legislation, for example, and how would this affect you, the prospective graduate fashion designer, if you were working at either of them? From this example alone you can already get a sense of how current social, economic and environmental affairs affect individual companies differently.
So, when it comes to crafting your answer, make sure that you have an understanding of the industry you’re applying to, the employer’s business model and how it generates profit, and how the role you’re applying for forms a part of the organisation’s overall operation. Head to targetjobs’ guide on commercial awareness for in-depth advice on how to develop yours and demonstrate it to employers.
Describe a time when you have had to work with others to achieve a goal
Why the question is being asked: teamwork is an essential skill for almost every graduate role. Employers like to ask this application form question to determine whether you would be a positive addition to their team.
How to approach answering: highlight how your actions helped to achieve the team’s goal and ensure that your example demonstrates collaboration. If you can, choose an example that incorporates other skills such as problem-solving, leadership abilities, time management or lateral thinking, for example.
Example answer: last winter I helped organise a skiing trip to the French Alps for myself and a group of friends. I suggested that we have an initial meeting to divvy responsibilities for booking the trip between us. At the meeting, we all volunteered to take a responsibility and we committed to meet again in a week’s time to book. I volunteered to find us flights and accommodation and spent a few hours each night for the following three days analysing options and finalising a list of affordable flights and accommodation. Towards the end of the week, one of the other group members, who was responsible for finding airport transfers, was struggling to find the time to properly research options and called me asking for help as they weren’t sure they’d have a finalised list in time for the next group meeting. That evening, we spent a few hours compiling a list of websites offering airport transfers, splitting them between us and then comparing and contrasting their offerings, and we were able to put together a finalised list of transfer options. Two days later at the group meeting, each member shared their findings and as a group we agreed on the best options and went ahead and booked the trip.
See targetjobs’ full guide to answering teamwork questions, here .
Tell us about a recent project or task that you enjoyed working on
Why the question is being asked: this question helps the employer gain an understanding of the type of work that you find interesting and your preferred way of working. Your response will help them determine whether you’ll be motivated to perform well in the role and whether you’ll fit the working environment.
How to approach answering: your answer will stand out if you choose an example project or task that you not only enjoyed completing, but that is also aligned with the role in terms of the working environment or the skills you used.
Example answer: I volunteer as a coach for my local under-11s football team. Every summer there is a two-day tournament for the top two teams of the different leagues in our region. This summer, the tournament was held in our league’s district. My team volunteered to organise the tournament, as being league runners up, we were competing. I collaborated with the club chairman and secretary to organise the tournament. I wrote and sent the official tournament email to all participating clubs including the schedule and suitable car parking locations, which I researched. I also helped mark pitches and set up pitch equipment. Over the tournament weekend, I helped troubleshoot issues and ensured the tournament stayed on schedule. I enjoyed this project a lot because I worked on a variety of different tasks, got to collaborate with others and also got to take charge of some aspects.
Our guide to answering the question ‘ what motivates you? ’ has more insights into tackling questions that assess what makes you tick in the workplace.
How do you structure a graduate job application answer?
So how do you ensure that you craft clear and concise answers that provide the employer with the information they are looking for and in a way that shows you to be the ideal candidate?
Align your response with the graduate job and/or employer
When asked about your skills, experience or motivation, it’s important that you tailor your answers to the role you’re applying for and/or the employer. To do this, you’ll need to research the job and the organisation, paying close attention to the job description and the aspects of the organisation that most interest you – whether that’s a specific project, a community initiative that supports the employer’s commitment to corporate social responsibility or the organisation’s environmental policies, for example.
Head to our article on how to research an employer for more help with this.
Use the ‘STAR' method to structure your examples
Many employers will assess whether you have the required skills on application forms and at interviews by asking for past examples of when you demonstrated them. These are known as competency-based questions. An example of a competency-based question – and one which we have already looked at in the article – is: ‘ describe a time when you have had to work with others to achieve a goal ’.
To answer competency-based questions, you can use the ‘STAR’ method. A STAR-structured example provides details of the s ituation, t ask that was at hand, a ctions that you took and the r esult of those actions. For detailed advice on how to answer competency-based questions and the ‘STAR’ method, see our guide to answering competency-based questions .
Try to quantify examples wherever possible
Being able to quantify the successful results of your actions will create a stronger impression. So, wherever possible, provide numerical evidence to support any examples that you give. For instance, if you have the data, instead of saying that you ‘helped boost sales’, say by how much: for example that your actions ‘helped boost sales by approximately 20%’ (if they did so).
Find more help for graduate job applications
Now you've read up on how to answer application form questions, make sure you're prepared for other aspects of the online application process:
- how to fill in a job application form
- targetjobs complete guide to CV writing
- tips on covering letter essentials .
Also make sure to see our article on psychometric tests . Most graduate recruiters now include these in their application process, so get yourself ready by using our expert tips.
We have plenty more content on targetjobs for getting yourself graduate career ready. Simply create your free graduate profile and tell us about your career interests. We’ll then recommend advice, events and career opportunities tailored to those interests.
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