Find out how to answer the questions in a job application form.


We can review your application before you send it to an employer.

Book an appointment with a careers consultant or ask us a question via CareerHub. 

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Find out: 

Where to start

Before you begin writing your application, investigate:

  • the role
  • the employer
  • the skills and requirements of the position
  • how you need to apply.

Start your research by reading the job advert, job description and person specification. Find out about any competencies that the employer is looking for and visit their website to find out more about the company.

Types of questions

Graduate recruiters particularly use competency-based questions and motivational questions in their recruitment.

Competency-based questions

Typical competencies might include:

  • teamwork
  • communication
  • leadership
  • motivation.

It is your job to give examples of how you have demonstrated these competencies in the past.


Typical competency-based questions might include can you:

  • tell us about a time when you worked as part of a team? What was your role and what did you do?
  • give an example of when you showed good communication skills?

Motivational questions

Motivational questions are designed so that the employer can find out more about why you want the role and if you will fit into the organisation.


Typical motivational questions:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What are the major challenges facing our sector currently? Who are our competitors?
  • Where do you see yourself in X years’ time?

How to fill out the personal statement 

Show the employer how you meet the criteria on the job description or person specification. 

To do this, use each point on the person specification as a heading and provide your example underneath. This makes it easier for the people shortlisting to see how you meet the criteria. Using the STAR model can help give your examples a clear and concise structure. 

Write your answers and examples in Word first so that you can check your spelling and grammar. Save the job description and person specification for future reference, and a copy of your application.

Matching your experience to the job

Think about all areas of your life that you can draw on to give examples such as your academic studies, extra-curricular activities, part-time work, volunteering, and responsibilities at home. 

In your examples it is also important to show that you understand what the company does and what the job involves, by linking your experience to the role. 


  • Presentations given during your degree to demonstrate communication skills.
  • Skills acquired from being part of a University society or sports team such as interpersonal and teamwork. 
  • Part-time work or volunteering where you may have gained customer service, communication and time-management skills. 

Who to use as referees

You should provide a minimum of two referees with your application. This could be an academic at Sussex. It is also preferable to use a work reference from a previous job.

If you haven’t worked before, think about other people who could provide a reference. This could be a school teacher or a family friend. 

Disclosing a disability

Most application forms will ask you to complete a diversity section that may cover disability. If you decide to tell an employer about a disability, they must make reasonable adjustments to support you during the application process and in the workplace.

Whether to tell an employer about a disability is a personal decision – you can discuss your options with a careers consultant. 

Find out about your disability rights.

More support

We have partnered with EmployAbility to provide students with disabilities and long-term health conditions with individualised advice and support. The EmployAbility team will also advocate for you with an employer to ensure you receive the adjustments you need.

Disclosing a criminal record

Employers are likely to ask if you have had a criminal conviction. If you are unsure of how to answer this section, you can discuss this with a Careers Consultant. Nacro also has information on disclosing criminal records.

When you will hear back

If you haven’t heard anything for two weeks after the deadline, you can contact the employer to follow up the status of your application. 

If your application isn’t successful, you can ask for the employer for feedback, which will help you when you write future applications.

See more from How to apply for a job