Job Application - Probing Questions

by Student

I find it hard to think of examples and I am not sure what examples would be significant to give.

  1. Give an example of a time where you have made a real difference and what motivated you to do this.

  2. Give an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision.

  3. Example of working in a team.

  4. Give an example of a time when you have had to deal with a difficult customer and explain what the outcome was.

  5. Give an example of a time when you have had to make a difficult decision.

My answer:
Whilst working on a project at college I had decided to produce a car alarm which would be triggered any impact to the car. I had to decided between two variation sensors as I was not sure which to use, so I consulted my tutor who gave me advice on which would be best I then evaluated the advantages and disadvantages and decided to use the sensor which is simpler to debug of the two because of the time limit we had to complete the project.

Lisa's Response to "Job Application Probing Questions"

I completely agree that it's often not easy to think of specific examples that demonstrate specific skills, and if you're a student with a limited work history, it can be that much harder. So, while I can give you tips on how to choose and formulate effective examples, I won't pretend that I can make this job easy.

Also, while I'm happy to explain how to formulate effective answers to these job application questions, I tend to avoid providing standardized answers to questions (I know you didn't request a standardized answer, but some people do, so I'd like to mention why standardized answers aren't effective).

The employer wants to get to know you, so your answers must draw from your own experience. Also, hiring managers see and hear too many standardized answers to these kinds of questions. A standardized answer (i.e. something someone told you to say or write because they thought it sounded good, as opposed to something you came up with yourself based on your own experience) just doesn't make a good impression, and I'd be doing you a disservice to imply that there's an effective, standard answer you can give for these job application questions.

There are two bits of very good news:
  1. Because it's not easy to come up with effective, specific examples to answer job application questions like this, few people do it. They just hope to get by using more general answers.

    So investing the time to come up with some good answers to these questions is well worth your time because it is an extremely effective way to help you stand out from your competition.

  2. Once you formulate good, specific answers to these questions, you can use these stories over and over again. You're not simply doing all of this work for one job application.

    The job application questions you've noted are extremely common job interview questions. So, once you've formulated good answers to these questions, you will very likely have the opportunity to use these answers again in job interviews you attend.

Your comment "I am not sure what examples would be significant to give." is an important one because some stories are much better than others.

Effective examples are ones that are specific (your sample answer was very specific, and that's good), and they also demonstrate a skill or quality that you possess that is important to the employer and that causes you to stand out from the competition. This is where your sample answer could be stronger.

In order to help you formulate good answers to these job application questions, I'd direct you to the article Behavioral Interview Tips. This article describes how to use the STAR interview technique to develop excellent answers to exactly the type of questions you've been asked on your job application.

While the article focuses on developing these answers for a job interview, you'd use exactly the same technique to develop good, specific answers for a written job application.

The article will provide you with more tips for determining which types of examples are appropriate and which examples to avoid as well as a formula for developing an answer that clearly describes and demonstrates your marketable skills.

The main difference to consider when developing these answers for a written job application, as opposed to a verbal job interview, will be that you may need to work on editing your answers well to keep them brief enough for the space provided on your job application.

Please take particular note of the Result step of the STAR interview technique. People commonly forget to tell employers about the positive results of their actions. Those results are what prove your actions were effective, and describing the positive result is crucial to formulating an effective answer.

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