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Job Applications are Simple: Just Answer the Question!

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by Shannon Barlow

over 3 years ago

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My two cents worth this week is more of a mini rant than anything else. I've been going through job applications where I've included selection criteria questions, and it amazes me how many candidates answer these filter questions inappropriately. In a lot of cases, candidates seemed to think the questions were optional and avoided the question, or they got overexcited by a free text field and thought it wouldn't hurt to include extra information.  In fact, this does hurt your chances of getting to the next stage in the recruitment process. Here is an example of what I thought was a fairly straight forward question: Briefly summarise your experience within the healthcare industry. And here are some of the frustrating responses I received:

  • “See resume”
  • a generic cover letter copied and pasted into the answer field
  • a page-long answer detailing every position they have held in the industry
  • an employment profile including only position titles and dates of employment

The candidates in this example may think they are saving themselves time or improving their chances of progressing by giving extra information, but really it puts them on the back foot from the start. We all know how important first impressions are, and in this case, my first impressions are that none of these candidates can follow instructions, some are a bit lazy, one is a try-hard and all have problems communicating concisely. The more worrying thing for the candidate, though, is that they have all managed to annoy me before I've even looked at their resume and cover letter, which is bound to influence my overall judgement of their application. So here are a couple of tips for answering filter questions and avoiding getting on the bad side of the person reviewing your application: 

Answer the question. Yes, we will read your resume and can piece together the information, but we want you to put it in your words and test your writing skills at the same time. 

Answer only the question that is being asked. You can include a full cover letter separately in the application, so don’t think that you have to prove your suitability for the role purely within one filter question. Pretty simple advice, but as I said, they’re pretty simple questions! Got any examples of bad responses to filter questions?

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