Understanding Competency-based Application Forms?

Competency-based forms are completed by people seeking employment opportunities in the public and private sectors, the former being the most prevalent. They have begun to replace the CV over the past number of years, in fact, 20 years or more; though, the CV is still requested as a form of job application in the private sector.

What is a competency-based form?

Competency-based application forms can be complex and difficult to complete, because as well as the standard sections of personal details, education, training, employment history and interests; there is a section entitled supplementary questions, competencies or behavioural questions, that can contain 4-6 (sometimes up to 10 questions).

The candidates are given a title of a specific skill that is deemed to be a key requirement in order to carry out the job successfully i.e., a competency. Under the competency title, there is a paragraph that explains the competency and its key components or critical areas. The candidate is asked to write an example under a specific word count or within a specific space provided, that demonstrates that they have carried out this specific skill before in a job/career area during education, in a sport or in a voluntary capacity, with the former being the most preferable.

Sometimes, questions are asked instead of competencies, where the hiring organisation asks candidates to demonstrate their depth and breadth of experience in a specific discipline/task /duty relevant to the role. Most times, the answer to these types of questions, can also be structured and answered in the form of an example; however, these answers must be from your job/career, as they are looking for pure and relevant experience around the job you are applying for.

Many people can find the completion of these competency-based application forms difficult, challenging and time-consuming; and they are all three indeed. They know that should they be called for an interview, it will be based on the answers i.e., examples they have written against each of the competencies through a competency-based interview. Hence, their answers to the questions must address the criteria of the explained competency.

Examples of competencies in a competency-based application forms:

  • Planning and organising
  • Building and maintaining relationships
  • Teamwork
  • Specific knowledge and experience
  • Strategic thinking
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Communication skills
  • Presentation skills
  • & more

As you write examples of the competencies, you need to consider giving each example a structure i.e., a start, middle and end, including a title using the STAR, STARLI, STARLIS or the ABC format, whichever is preferable or using the ‘Power of Three’ approach.


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