Following are example answers to some of the most common key competencies, using the CAR model. These are presented in a more formal style as they would be on an application form.
When answering competency style questions or discussing experiences generally at interview then a more conversational style should be adopted to fit with the tone of the interview and to avoid it sounding scripted.
My degree included a compulsory module which was based around a group project. Specifically we were tasked with creating a new marketing strategy for a local community project, and presenting the findings back to the tutorial group. Working in a group of four, we met initially to discuss our own strengths and areas of interest within the parameters of the project. This enabled up to assign lead responsibilities accordingly. (I took overall responsibility for the social media marketing strategy). To work effectively as a team, we planned a series of weekly meeting that enabled us to put our own ideas forward whilst also receiving input from the other team members. Through these meetings I was able to identify a way in which I could use my research findings to help with the research another team member was completing, thus ensuring greater time efficiency. Our final presentation was a great success with the course tutor commenting specifically on evidence of close teamwork.
My role as a student ambassador involves promoting the option of higher education to local school children and also working at internal events at our university. I was recently selected to act as Lead Ambassador for a network of four local schools. I was responsible for training and managing a team of A-level students who had been recruited to work as helpers at our Open Days. I was aware of the importance of leading by example to these younger students so always ensured that I was punctual, organised and fair in my dealings with them. As their key contact it was important that I was always accessible, that I listened to their ideas for the events we ran and supported them with, for example, extra training when they identified the need. At the end of the project the students completed feedback forms on their experiences and my leadership was given a 100% satisfaction rate.
I have held a keen interest in kayaking for ten years now. More recently I have enjoyed sharing my passion for the sport with others through written word. Eighteen months ago I started blogging my experiences about competing at national level. My blog now has over 200 subscribers and they cover a huge range of ages and skill levels. As such, I need to ensure that my content is relevant and engaging to everyone who reads it, so I make sure that I feature a range of posts which will appeal to the full spectrum of my subscribers. As my writing confidence has increased through blogging, I have recently started submitting articles to popular specialist sporting magazines. In order to be successful here I’ve needed to adapt my writing style to a much more formal approach whilst, making sure the articles are tightly proof-read before they are submitted. My first two magazine articles were published earlier this year and I hope there will be more to follow.
I joined a local amateur dramatics society three years ago without any previous acting experience. Whilst I did it largely to expand my social networks, I also felt it may help improve my confidence as I was aware how important this is in a professional environment. I recently took on the role of Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. The thought of performing live to 400 people at first seemed a little daunting and I wondered how I would cope with potential stage-fright. However I soon learned that, as with most things, the key to success is practice and ‘knowing your audience’. I made sure I rehearsed at every opportunity and focused on delivering my lines in a clear and engaging manner. On the production nights I found that nerves were soon lost and I enjoyed performing immensely. Since starting acting, I have found that my confidence in delivering presentations at university has increased hugely.
Over the last two summer holidays, I have secured temporary work at my local further education college, working in the admissions office during the busy enrolment period. This summer, an issue was raised by the finance department that there appeared to be large inconsistencies between how different staff members were assessing clients for international or home student status. I suggested to my line manager that I would be happy to research the issue in more detail, which allowed me then to identify the root of the problem as being due to recent visa regulation changes. Clearly some staff members knew about these changes, and others did not. Consequently, I put together a comprehensive document which was shared with the whole team and which allowed all staff to correctly assess the students’ status using a clear step by step approach. This resulted in a 85% decrease in wrongly assessed applicants the following month.
For one afternoon per week I volunteer as a retail assistant in a local charity shop. Charity shops have generally benefitted from the current economic recession with most shops reporting a surge in trade over the last three years. Keen to capitalise on this situation in order to increase profits to the charity, I spoke to my supervisor about what we could do to further improve takings. I suggested undertaking a review of the way we display our stock. I did this by a combination of visual monitoring, speaking directly to our customers directly for their ideas on potential improvements and visiting our competitors to compare their shop floor layout. As a result of these activities the shop floor has been rearranged to make a stronger feature of the childrenswear section in particular, and we’ve also implemented more frequent changes to the shop window displays to attract new customers. The shop has seen a 10% rise in profits since the changes were made.
Attention to Detail/Accuracy
My part time job in a petrol service station requires that I am responsible for cashing up the till at the end of each shift – that in itself requires a lot of attention to detail. However, on one particular night I noticed there was a huge discrepancy between the cash and receipt totals. After recounting the cash to make sure my first additions were correct, I was then required to go through the till receipts with a fine-toothed comb to try and identify where the error had occurred. By doing this I discovered that a number of vouchers hadn’t been accounted for as they had been left outside of the till during an earlier shift. A quick phone call allowed me to locate the missing vouchers – the till contents and receipts then balanced perfectly. I highlighted the problem to my boss the next day to ensure that staff became aware of the potential for this problem and the need to keep all vouchers within the till.
At university I became involved in a volunteer programme, working with local schools to improve reading standards. It was a commitment of two hours each week which I was happy to take on despite a busy study timetable. I loved working with the children and seeing the sense of achievement on their faces as they grew with confidence. The impact was so great that I offered to extend my initial commitment to twice weekly. Not only did I feel enthusiastic about the project but I felt it offered a great balance to my personal studies and, as such, I felt many of my peers would also benefit from. I put myself forward as a Team Leader for the project at my university and was able to recruit twenty new student volunteers. Due to my endeavours I was awarded a special certificate by the Local Education Authority to recognise my commitment to helping.
I recently set myself the challenge of completing a Half Marathon. I had never particularly enjoyed running but I was attracted to the idea of working towards a goal and achieving something new so I set myself a six month training programme that would culminate in the race. It was a tough programme set over the winter months when running conditions were far from ideal but I stuck to my plan. Unfortunately, just three months before the race I acquired a knee-injury which left me wondering if I would be able to reach my goal. However, this left me more determined than ever, and after taking the necessary rest, and sticking rigorously to my exercises, I modified my training plan and was able to build up my strength again. I successfully completed the half marathon in April and even met my time goal of 2 ½ hours.
At college, I took part in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style challenge where we were asked to pitch ideas to a panel of local business leaders and see whether they would hypothetically consider investing in our product. In order to promote my idea of an ecological waste disposal unit it was essential that I first researched the ‘green’ market in detail, and put together realistic business projections. I wrote a presentation focused strongly upon convincing the panel that the item was not only cost saving and ecologically sound, but also appealing enough to the mass market to be able to generate considerable revenue. As a result of my pitch three panel members initially chose to invest in my product. I was then able to negotiate two of them down on their original offer (thus increasing my own share of the company) before selecting my preferred investor. I was one of only five students to be offered investment at this event.
During my internship within the HR department of a retail group, it became increasingly evident that my placement supervisor (a senior member of staff) was frequently away from the office. Worried that my time at the organisation would lack structure and keen to make the most of the opportunity I had been given, I took the initiative to approach a recent graduate with whom I had been introduced, and ask him if he would act informally as a mentor for the remainder of my placement. He kindly agreed, and as our working relationship developed, I further asked if I could become involved with some work he was doing on the company training and development scheme. This gave me exposure to a new work area and really heightened my overall internship experience. At the end of my internship I wrote a formal proposal to the HR Director to adopt a nationwide Peer Mentor scheme for all company interns. The proposal was accepted and introduced.
I decided to take a gap year after school to give myself the opportunity to travel and thus adopt a broader perspective on the world. I travelled with two other friends and each of us took responsibility for the planning of one particular part of the trip. My own responsibility lay with travel plans for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. This involved not only booking practical and cost effective flights, but also researching accommodation, internal travel options and points of interest. I decided to organise three different itineraries so that we could select the most attractive one to us at a nearer point in time. I also made sure that I incorporated a two week contingency into our plans to allow us any further flexibility we may need. The organisation was very successful and we had a stress-free last three months of travelling due, I believe, to the amount of up-front organisation that I had committed to.
As a committee member of the university’s History Society, I was involved in the planning and organisation of the annual Quiz Night. My particular responsibilities were for sourcing the venue and catering. Just four weeks before the event was due to take place we received news that the budget for the event was effectively being halved. Initially we weren’t sure that it would still be viable. However, I looked at my own costings and successfully proposed a change of venue, aware that we would be able to hire one of the university event rooms at a significantly reduced rate. Whilst we had initially been very keen to run the event in an external setting, it was essential to work within the new budget constraints and adapt our plans accordingly. The event turned out to be a huge success with attendee numbers up 30% on the previous year.