What recruitment panels are looking for in APS3-6 written applications
At some stage in our careers we’ve all braved the recruitment process and completed a written application – usually spending hours agonising over a few hundred words. As HR professionals, we often have an inside view into the recruitment process – but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect.
Read on to refresh your knowledge and make sure you’re doing the basics brilliantly.
What are the panels looking for?
At the most basic level, panels are looking for applications that demonstrate the candidate can meet the selection criteria. Yes, it’s obvious – but in reality not every application will address every criterion; it could be because they don’t have the experience, or because they aren’t able to describe how they do, particularly within the word limit. So addressing every requirement in the job description will give you a definite advantage.
You should also use examples to back up your claims. Without an example (and preferably results), any statement you make will carry little weight. But more than that, examples provide crucial information that help panels rate you on a scale. Was your response to unexpected challenges simply ‘satisfactory’ – or did you go beyond the expected to think about the broader environment and implications, anticipate stakeholder needs, and minimise risks? We all work in teams, but panels also want to know what your personal contribution was. This level of detail will help panels place you in higher standing among a sea of applicants. Try putting yourself in the shoes of the panellists and imagining what they’d be looking for to help you stand out from the pack.
What applications stand out?
Put simply, the ones that are written well. We’re not talking about perfect prose, but having properly constructed sentences with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation has multiple benefits and flow-on effects. If you can say something simply and clearly, you not only make it easier for the panel to see you’ve met the selection criteria, but you often also cut out unnecessary words that don’t add anything (except to your wordcount!).
If writing isn’t your strong suit, it’s worth doing a course or two to boost this critical skill (check out courses on grammar, punctuation, editing, proofreading and more on APS Learn). In the meantime, ask your friends or family to review it or seek help from your colleagues. Get them to read your application and then quiz them on what stood out – it’s a good sign if their key takeaways are the same as the selection criteria.
Another way to distinguish your application is by being authentic, not perfect. While it’s natural to want to present only your best characteristics and outcomes, it only shows one side of your work. Admitting a mistake is okay – as long as you demonstrate how you turned it around to resolve the issue, as well as how you learned and grew from the experience. This can provide the panel valuable insight into your emotional intelligence and how you respond when things don’t go to plan.
What applications are doomed to fail?
Funnily enough, often the small things can make the biggest impact here – because if you can’t get simple tasks right then what hope is there for big projects?
For instance, when the examples in your application aren’t directly relevant for the role. It’s worth doing some research first so you can align your examples, and better promote how you can help them address the challenges they face. That level of awareness and strategic thinking will help the panel see you as someone who can hit the ground running.
Another example is not following specific instructions (as all applications have different submission requirements, it’s worth checking). Whether it’s using the wrong font, sneaking in more words, or not keeping to the requested resume page length, the little things can become an easy excuse to toss your resume onto the ignore pile. Do yourself a favour: read the application requirements before you start writing.
If you’re nailing the basics but still not getting to the interview stage (and even if you are) – make sure you ask for feedback. It’s the only way to know for sure what the panel’s thought process was and identify areas for improvement. If it’s down to experience, use the feedback as a prompt to speak with your manager about your performance and any new goals or focus areas you may have.
Lastly, it’s worth keeping in mind that you never know exactly what the panel are looking for in a role, or who else is applying – so be kind to yourself. And good luck with your next application!
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