The Ultimate Guide to Completing an Application Form

By How2become

Chapter 3: Sample questions and responses

This section of the guide is packed full of sample application form questions and responses. Please note: the sample responses are for guidance purposes only. They are not to be copied word for word. Instead, use them as a basis when creating your own responses.

It is also worth highlighting at this point that the majority of employers will have a copy of your application form at interview. They may ask you questions during the interview in order to verify the information you have supplied on your form. Make sure you keep a copy of your application form before you submit it and also make sure the responses you provide are true and accurate.

Question 1 – Please explain why you are applying for this post and what you have to offer.

This is a very common question. I have read many different responses to this question in the past and many of them fall at the first hurdle; they fail to respond to the questions that are being asked. If you read the question carefully you will note that there are actually two questions as follows: Q1. Why are you applying for this post? Q2. What do you have to offer? I have seen people time and time again fail to answer the second part of the questions. When responding to this question split your response into two parts. The most effective way to achieve this is to start each part as follows: Part 1 I am applying for this post because… Part 2 I have to offer… If you follow this piece of advice you will be ensuring that you actually answer the questions that are being asked. Always read the question very carefully before answering it.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION 1

Please explain why you are applying for this post and what you have to offer. “I am applying for this post because, having studied the person specification and job description, I believe that I am very well suited to the position. I have over five years experience in a similar role, which I excelled in. I am fully aware of the requirements for this role and believe that the skills and attributes I posses would be of extreme benefit to your organisation. For example, whilst in my previous role I assisted the organisation in achieving Investors in People status. This was achieved through meticulous preparation, planning and organisation. My role was to provide the assessors with evidence of where we the organisation met each assessable criteria. I have to offer many qualities, skills and experiences. I am a hard working, driven, ambitious and a flexible person who can be relied upon to achieve any given task. For example, in my previous role I was often asked to work late hours so that the company could meet tight deadlines. I always made sure that I was available to assist and fully realised how important these deadlines were. To summarise, I believe that I have all of the necessary skills and qualifications to perform exceptionally in this role. I have many years experience in a similar role and can be relied upon to achieve the organisations aims and objectives.”

IMPORTANT TIP: If you make reference in your application form to the company’s aims and objectives, make sure you learn them before you go to interview!

This type of question is asking you to ‘list’ proficiencies, attributes and experiences. Therefore, you may decide to answer this question with 3 lists, each headed by the specific requirement. Before you respond to this question take a look at the person specification and job description and highlight the qualities and skills required to perform the role. Then, when responding to this question, try hard to match them. In the following sample response I will use the role of a customer service assistant as an example.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION 2

Please list your proficiencies, qualities, attributes and experiences that you may contribute to your performance in this post.

I have a large number of exceptional qualities, attributes and proficiencies that would contribute to my performance in this post as follows:

Proficiencies

  • Competent in the use of database systems both inputting and extracting data.
  • Achieved NVQ in Customer service skills and the handling of complaints
  • Attended and passed with distinction a 3 day Customer communication skills course

Qualities

  • Ability to communicate clearly and effectively by telephone, in person and in writing
  • Quick and accurate keyboard skills
  • Ability to make effective decisions within established procedures
  • A methodical and accurate approach to work activities
  • Capable of following procedures and systematic processes
  • Good organisational skills
  • Capable of delivering a first class service to a diverse range of customers from initial point of contact
  • Commitment to equality of opportunity and diversity
  • Effective team player
  • Committed to delivering first class customer service
  • Able and willing to deal effectively with a diverse range of customer enquiries
  • Willingness to take ownership for resolution of enquiries and complaints
  • Ability to remain calm when dealing with difficult or distressed people
  • Understanding of the need for confidentiality and discretion

Experiences

    3 years experience in a customer service role
  • Handling of customer complaints and enquiries
  • Acted as a temporary customer service manager for 6 months to cover maternity leave

IMPORTANT TIP: Once again it is very important to obtain a copy of the person specification and job description before listing each criteria. Remember to makes sure that you include all ‘ESSENTIAL’ criteria and try to add as many ‘DESIRABLE’ as possible.

Now use the template on the following page to create your own proficiencies, qualities, attributes and experiences.

Please list your proficiencies, qualities, attributes and experiences that you may contribute to your performance in this post.

As I have mentioned previously within this guide, evidence is very important. Anybody can write down on paper that they are good at a certain job, but providing actual evidence is another matter.

In the following sample response I have provided evidence of where a person meets the requirements for the role of a Sales Manager.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION 3

What evidence do you have to support your application?

“I am already highly experienced in the role of Sales Manager and believe that the skills, qualities and attributes I possess will be a valuable asset to your team.

To begin with I have 4 years experience at recruiting and training sales staff. In my previous role I set up a recruitment section that was responsible for headhunting the best sales staff available in the South East of England. This venture proved to be extremely successful with a retention rate of 87%. Once I had recruited the appropriate staff I then ensured they received the highest standard of training available. Each member of the team would embark on an NVQ in sales and marketing and it was my responsibility to monitor their performance in line with their appraisal.

During staff appraisals I would always monitor team morale as I believe this to be a key link to my team’s high retention rate. I also have many years experience of allocating specific areas to sales executives in line with their own specific skills and qualities. Before I allocated each area I would ensure that the individual was aware of their budget and their targets for the year.

In order to keep myself abreast of company changes and policies I would keep and maintain a weekly Continuous Performance Development (CPD) folder. This essentially meant that I would allocate one hour at the beginning of every working week to CPD. The end result of this was that I was always fully up-to-date with company progress, products and services which in turn allowed me to brief my team effectively.

In terms of additional certifiable evidence I hold the following qualifications:

– BTEC National Diploma in Business (Marketing)

– Currently in the final year of my MBA

I also have evidence of 4 years appraisals which demonstrate that I perform to a continuously high performance.”

IMPORTANT TIP: Those people who can provide firm evidence of where they meet the essential criteria have a far greater chance of being invited to assessment and interview. Remember to always focus on providing ‘evidence’ when completing your application form. Make it difficult for the person assessing your form to reject it!

Now use the template on the following page to create your own response to this question based on your own evidence.

What evidence do you have to support your application?

This question has been designed to assess your ability to work with others regardless of their background, age or gender. Many organisations, especially those in the Public Sector, will want to see evidence of where you have already worked with people of different ages, sex, sexual orientation, backgrounds, cultures and religious beliefs.

Remember to be specific in your response, relating it to a particular situation. Do not be generic in your response. An example of a generic response would be – ‘I am comfortable working with people from different backgrounds and have done this on many occasions’. This type of response is not specific and does not relate to a situation. Now take a look at the example response on the following page before using a blank sheet of paper to construct your own response based on your experiences.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION 4

Describe a situation where you have worked with people who are different from you in relation to age, background or gender.

“Whilst working in my current role as a sales assistant I was tasked with working with a new member of the team. The lady had just started working with us and was unfamiliar with the role. She was from a different background and appeared to be very nervous. I tried to comfort her and told her that I was there to support her through her first few working days and help her get her feet under the table. I fully understood how she must have felt. It was important that I supported her and helped her through her first few days at work. We are there to help each other regardless of age, background or gender. As a result of my actions the lady settled into work well and is now very happy in her role. We have been working together for 3 months and have built up a close professional and personal relationship.”

IMPORTANT TIP: Try to provide an example of where you have gone out of your way to help somebody from a different background, age or gender from you. Examples that demonstrate you ‘volunteered’ to help, rather than having to be forced into doing it, will score higher.

Now use the template provided on the following page to create your own response to this question.

Describe a situation where you have worked with people who are different from you in relation to age, background or gender.

In the vast number jobs that you will apply for, having the ability to build working relationships with your colleagues is very important. Never underestimate how important teamwork is in an organisation. This question is designed to see whether you have the ability to fulfill that role. Remember again to be specific about a particular situation and avoid the pitfall of being too generic. Try to think of a situation when you have worked as part of a team, maybe to achieve a common goal or task. The following is a sample response to this question.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 5

Describe a situation where you have worked closely with other people as part of a team.

“I currently play football for a local Sunday team and we were in fear of relegation to a lower league. I offered to help the team out by arranging and coordinating an extra training session on a weekday evening so that we could look for ways to improve our skills. I felt that the team needed support and encouragement. We all needed to work together to improve our skills. I knew that unless the team pulled together and began to work closely as a unit we would be relegated. We all met up for the extra training sessions and worked on our skills and fitness whilst supporting and helping each other. I helped a team-mate to work on his fitness levels by running 3 miles with him every session. At the end of the season we managed to avoid relegation due to the combined team effort. I fully understand how important teamwork is to any organisation. I will always ensure that I work closely with other people, communicate effectively and support those people who need my assistance.”

And here’s another sample response to this question:

“I recently volunteered to work with a new member our team at work. The task required us both to successfully complete a stock take of the entire warehouse within a short timeframe. The reason why I volunteered for the task is because I am a conscientious person who enjoys working with other people, and carrying out tasks to a high standard. Initially I showed the new team member how to stock take in a professional manner in accordance with company guidelines. He had never carried out this type of work before and I wanted to ensure he was both comfortable with the task and that he was doing it correctly. Once I had achieved this we both then set about methodically working through each aisle, stocktaking as we went along. Periodically we would stop to ensure that the task was being done correctly.

At the end of the specified timeframe we had completed the stock take and were able to provide accurate figures to our line manager. Whilst working as a team member I always concentrate on effective communication, focusing on the task in hand and providing support to team members who require assistance.”

IMPORTANT TIP: Do not underestimate the importance of teamwork in the job that you are applying for. Most employers will want to see evidence of how you have successfully worked as part of a team in the past. The last thing they want is someone who cannot mix or work with other people. A disruptive employee/team member is every employer’s worst nightmare.

Remember: the more prominent skills of a competent team member include:

  • An ability to work with anyone
  • Always focuses on the end result or goal
  • Able to communicate consistently and effectively
  • Supportive of the other team members

Once again, use the template provided on the following page to create your own unique response to this question.

Describe a situation where you have worked closely with other people as part of a team.

A good employee will be capable of learning new skills and improving on existing ones. Another term for this is called ‘Continuous Professional Development’. Your potential employer may want to know that you have the ability to improve on your current skills and learn new things. When answering this question, try to think of an example where you have learnt something new. This may be through your working life, at home or in your leisure time. There are probably many experiences that you can draw from so take the time to think of a suitable response. I have now provided a sample response to help you.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 6

Describe a situation where you have taken steps to improve your skills and/or learn new things.

“Approximately three months ago I asked my manager at work if I could attend a two-day customer care skills course. I work as a sales assistant for a large leisure retail outlet. The course was quite in depth and whilst on it I learnt new skills including how to provide a better level of service. The reason why I took this course of action was because I wanted to improve my skills in customer care. I am always looking for ways to improve my knowledge and learn new things. I also felt that by attending the course I would be improving the level of service that our customers receive. As a result of my actions I successfully passed the course and I received a qualification in customer care skills. I feel more confident in my abilities and feel more qualified to perform my role. As a result of the course I have also improved the level of service to the customer.”

IMPORTANT TIP: When you join any new job there will naturally be an element of initial training/development. It is not unreasonable, therefore, for the employer to want to see some form of evidence of where you have already taken steps to learn new skills etc. Try to provide recent examples.

Now use the template provided to create your own response.

Describe a situation where you have taken steps to improve your skills and/or learn new things

.

Some jobs that you may apply for will require an ability to remain calm and controlled in a stressful situation. Jobs that require this type of skill include:

– High pressurised sales roles

– Dealing with members of the public

– Dealing with complaints

– Emergency services

– Call handlers and operators

When responding to this question, think of an occasion where you have had to stay calm and in control. This does not necessarily have to be in a work situation but it may be during leisure time or at home. Be careful not to answer this question generically. Focus on a particular situation that you encountered recently. Again, I have provided you with a sample response to this question.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 7

Describe a situation where you have had to remain calm and controlled in a stressful situation.

“Whilst driving home from work I came across a road accident. I parked safely and went over to see if I could help. An elderly lady was in one of the cars suffering from shock. I remained calm and dialed 999 asking for the Police and Ambulance services. Once I had done this I then gave basic First Aid to the lady and ensured that the scene was safe. The reason for taking this course of action was simply because when I arrived people were starting to panic so I knew that somebody needed to take control of the situation. By remaining calm and confident I was able to get help for the lady. As a result of my actions the emergency services soon arrived and the lady was taken to hospital. The Police then took some details of my actions and thanked me for my calm approach and for making the scene safe.”

IMPORTANT TIP: Most application forms will not ask this type of questions, simply because there are very few jobs that require this skill. If you are asked this question, make sure you take the time to respond to it in a comprehensive and accurate manner. Questions of this nature normally carry a lot of weight in the marking stakes!

Now use the template on the following page to create your own response to this question.

Describe a situation where you have had to remain calm and controlled in a stressful situation.

Some jobs will require an ability to work unsupervised whilst following strict guidelines and procedures. This type of question is designed to assess how trustworthy you are as a person. When answering this question, try to think of an occasion when you have worked on your own following specific guidelines. Once again, ensure that you are specific about a particular situation and avoid being too generic. The following is a sample response to this question.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 8

Describe a situation where you have had to work on your own in accordance with guidelines.

“Whilst working in my current role as a gas engineer I was tasked with fitting a new boiler to a domestic property in a safe and effective manner. I carried out this work unsupervised and was relied upon to follow strict procedural and safety guidelines. I took this course of action because if I did not follow the procedural guidance that I received during my training, then I would be putting lives at risk. I must ensure that I carry out my work responsibly and follow all safety procedures to ensure that my work is carried out in accordance with my company’s policies. As a result of my actions the boiler was fitted to the required standard in accordance with the relevant British Standard and all safety procedures were followed. The customer was satisfied with my work and I was happy that I carried out my duties responsibly and in a competent manner.”

Now use the template provided to create a response based on your own experiences.

Describe a situation where you have had to work on your own in accordance with guidelines.

If an organisation or business is to improve then it must constantly looking for ways to change, develop and modernise. In order for a company to complete its modernisation agenda, it requires its employees to be adaptable to change. This question is designed to assess what you are like at accepting change. Some people do not like change and see it as ‘change for changes sake’. Employers want to take on people who have no issue with change and who embrace it. When answering this question try to think of a specific situation, either at work, home or through your leisure activities, where a change has been imposed by someone in a position of authority. Take a look at the following sample response to this question.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 9

Describe a situation where you have had to change the way you do something following a change imposed by someone in authority.

“Whilst working in my current job as a recruitment consultant, my manager wanted to restructure the office and change everyone’s roles and responsibilities. The company was performing well but I looked upon this as an opportunity to see if we could improve even further. I fully supported my manager and offered to assist him in the process of change. I strongly believe that change and continuous improvement is important if an organisation is to keep on top of its game. I embrace change and look at it as a positive thing. As a result of my supportive actions everybody soon settled into their new roles. The change process was a success and the organisations end of quarter figures were on the increase.”

IMPORTANT TIP: As human beings it is only natural to be frightened of change. Many people in many organisations are reluctant to accept change. In some organisations, especially those that fall within the public sector, this can be a real problem. It is important that you can embrace change as it does bring lots of healthy benefits.

Use the template that follows to create your own response to this question.

Describe a situation where you have had to change the way you do something following a change imposed by someone in authority.

The clue in this type of question is to READ about the job you are applying for. The question is asking you to match your knowledge, experience and skills with the job you have applied for. Therefore you need to read the job description before responding. Job descriptions or person specifications usually have both ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ criteria included. Basically you must provide evidence of where you can meet the ‘essential’ criteria on your application form. Matching the desirable criteria will also gain you extra marks.

If the company you are applying for have not sent you a copy of the job description then try to obtain a copy of it before completing the form. This will give you an insight into the role that you are applying for. Once you have read the information about the post you will then be able to construct you’re a suitable answer. Try to include any knowledge, skills or experience you may have that relates to the job description.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 10

Now that you’ve read more about the job, please tell us why you’re applying for it and what knowledge, experience or skills you have that might be relevant.

“I am applying for this post because I am looking for a new and challenging role. I enjoy working in a customer-focused environment and believe I would make an excellent employee within your company. I understand that the company is changing and moving forward and I believe you would be an exciting company to work for. I also believe I can bring something to the team in terms of commitment, motivation and enthusiasm.

I have worked in a customer-based role for a number of years now and during this time I have developed skills that can be applied to the role that I am applying for. As well as being a good communicator and possessing excellent practical skills I am also an outstanding team player and understand that this is a very important element of the role.

I have educational qualifications in English Language, English Literature and Art and I am also coming to the end of studying for a Diploma in Management Studies. I also hold a Health and Safety qualification through IODA in Nottingham. I am a fit and active person who visits the gym/swimming pool three times a week and I also play football for a local Sunday team. I am a very good communicator and learn new skills quickly. I am used to working long and varied hours and I understand that the role requires a high level of flexibility, which I am prepared for. I enjoy working with and meeting people from all walks of life and I truly value the benefits of a diverse workforce. To summarise, I am a highly professional, caring, trustworthy, friendly and motivated person and I believe I would make an excellent member of your organisation.”

IMPORTANT TIP: Have a copy of the job description and person specification next to you when responding to this question and try to match the essential and desirable qualities.

Use the template on the following page to create your own unique response to this question.

Now that you’ve read more about the job, please tell us why you’re applying for it and what knowledge, experience or skills you have that might be relevant.

This type of question is designed to assess the type of person you are outside of work. This will give the company an idea of how you are likely to perform at work and will tell them if you are fit, healthy and active. When responding to this type of question, make sure you make reference to the job description. What type of duties will you be required to perform and can you match your external activities to them? Being fit and active is always a positive aspect that the assessing staff will be looking for. If you are active outside of work, then you are also likely to be active at work and achieve your tasks to the required standard. If you have recently achieved any educational or academic qualifications outside of work then it would be a good idea to make reference to these too. Now take a look at the sample response before creating your own based around your own skills, knowledge and experience.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 11

Please tell us about anything you get up to outside work that gives us a better idea of what you’re like as a person and why you might be right for our company. Please give the name of the activity and what it says about you.

I attend the gym at least 3 times per week and carry out some light weight work. Whilst at the gym, I usually perform 20 minutes of rowing each time and cover a distance of 5,000 metres. I particularly enjoy swimming and swim 50 lengths, 3 times per week. When I get the opportunity I like to go walking in order to keep healthy. Staying fit and healthy means that I am able to maintain a high level of concentration at work and it also helps to keep my enthusiasm and motivation levels high. This shows that I am a dedicated and determined person who is always looking to improve himself.

I also currently play the drums and the piano. I have always enjoyed being creative and I play the drums in a function band that plays at wedding events and parties on some weekends. This shows that I have the dedication to learn new skills and I have the ability to concentrate on the task in hand when required. Learning new skills is essential to the role that I am applying for and I believe that I have the ability to learn new skills quickly and adapt them to the work environment in a safe and effective manner.

Now use the template provided to create your own response to this question.

Please tell us about anything you get up to outside work that gives us a better idea of what you’re like as a person and why you might be right for our company. Please give the name of the activity and what it says about you.

Having the initiative to solve problems is integral to some roles, especially those that involve either a managerial or supervisory capacity. Whilst you will normally have set procedures and policies to adhere to at work you must still have the required initiative to solve difficult problems. Before responding to questions of this nature make sure you read the question very carefully first and try to understand what is required. Remember to write a response that identifies the use of your initiative to solve a difficult problem.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 12

Please provide examples of how you have used your initiative to solve a difficult problem.

“During a recent staff meeting I was aware that there were a number of problems between some members of the team. The team wasn’t working effectively so we all discussed ways in which we could improve. The actions of the team were starting to have an effect on the team’s performance, so I decided to take the initiative to resolve the issue. I facilitated the meeting and asked everybody to share their views and opinions. I listened to each person individually and tried to encourage people to come up with solutions in order to improve the team’s effectiveness. A positive point that came from our discussions was that people felt that we didn’t hold enough meetings to talk about the problems we all face. It was agreed that with immediate effect we would hold weekly meetings to discuss issues, gather and share information, and look for ways that we could all support each other in our work. Since the meeting the team has moved forward and is now working far more effectively.”

Use the template on the following page to create your own response to this question.

Please provide examples of how you have used your initiative to solve a difficult problem.

Having the ability to constantly review your own performance and take steps to improve is an important aspect of everyday life. This is particularly relevant in the workplace and the majority of employers would rather take on someone who is capable of improving and developing.

When responding to this type of question try to think of an example or examples where you have improved yourself. This may be through a training course or educational qualification(s). This type of questions is sometimes asked on application forms where the post applied for involves some form of intensive initial training course.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 13

Please provide a recent example of how you have developed your abilities to improve yourself.

“In order to carry out my duties in my current role effectively I felt that I needed more management skills. I decided to pay for, and embark on, a Diploma Course in Management. I am coming to the end of the course and have found it a useful tool for improving my skills. I am always looking for new ways to improve my skills and knowledge so that I can perform better both in a professional and personal capacity. I also believe it is important to keep fully up-to-date and conversant with company policies. Every week I read the company policy update log to ensure I am fully aware of any changes or amendments to working practices.”

Use the template that follows to create your response to this question.

Please provide a recent example of how you have developed your abilities to improve yourself.

This type of question may be asked on application forms for jobs that involve a managerial or supervisory role. Try to think of an occasion when you have been part of a team or have even been the leader of a team. When responding to questions of this nature think of a scenario where you worked as part of the team to achieve a task or solve a problem. Now take a look at the following sample response before using blank sheet of paper to construct your own.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 14

Please provide an example of how you have played a positive role as team member or leader.

“In my current role I am responsible for the safety of my team and for ensuring that any health and safety incidents are reported in line with company regulations. I am also involved in coaching and mentoring my team and providing them with feedback, often helping them to improve. I currently lead a team of 18 staff and I am required to ensure the team operates effectively in terms of management, health and safety, and training. Following any incident that relates to health and safety I always fully brief each member of the team to ensure that I have done everything in my power to prevent an incident occurring again. In particular I recently carried out the appraisals of all of my staff. This was a long and difficult process but it was important that I was thorough and consistent in my approach. I identified that two members of the team required development in specific areas so I arranged for consolidation training to be undertaken. This action resulted in improved performance for both of them. As a leader it is my responsibility to identify problems within my team and act accordingly.”

Now use the template that follows to create your own response to this question.

Please provide an example of how you have played a positive role as team member or leader.

Some careers will require you to work under pressure or to tight deadlines. Examples of this type of role include:

  • Sales manager/executive
  • Managerial/Executive positions
  • Traders
  • Train Drivers
  • Emergency Service workers
  • Emergency Service Call Handlers

When responding to this question try to think of a scenario where you have worked under pressure but still achieved the task or goal.

Take a look at the following sample response before using a blank sheet of paper to construct your own response based on your own experiences.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 15

Please provide an example of how you have had to work under pressure.

“In my current role as customer service manager I am required to work under pressure on a daily basis. Recently, I was presented with a situation where two members of staff had gone sick leaving me with only three other staff members to manage the shop during a busy Saturday.

During the morning we were due to take a stock delivery which meant that I had to perform many tasks without taking a break. During the day I dealt with two customer complaints, took delivery of the stock, served customers whilst others took their break and also dealt with a fire alarm actuation. In order to achieve each task I both prioritised my workload and delegated roles that could be carried out by someone else to another employee. I maintain a calm and composed attitude throughout the day and always focused on the task in hand. I am often required to perform under pressure and thrive in such conditions. I always adapt well to situations like these and ensure that I still maintain a high level of professionalism at all times.”

Now use the template on the following page to create your own unique response to this question.

Please provide an example of how you have had to work under pressure.

Some roles will require you to communicate messages to groups of people. Sometimes that message might be bad news or have a negative impact on someone’s day. Try to think of an occasion where you have had to communicate an important message where you were under pressure. Take a look at the following sample response which will help you to create your own. Once you have read the provided example, use a blank sheet of paper to construct your own response based on your own experiences.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 16

Please provide an example of how you have taken responsibility to communicate an important message.

“Whilst working in my current position as a sales person I was the duty manager for the day as my manager had gone sick. It was the week before Christmas and the shop was very busy. During the day the fire alarm went off and I started to ask everybody to evacuate the shop, which is our company policy. The alarm has gone off in the past but the normal manager usually lets people stay in the shop whilst he finds out if it’s a false alarm. This was a difficult situation because the shop was very busy, nobody wanted to leave, and my shop assistants were disagreeing with me in my decision to evacuate the shop. Some of the customers were becoming irate as they were in the changing rooms at the time. Both the customers and my shop assistants were disagreeing with me. The customers were saying that it was appalling that they had to evacuate the shop and that they would complain to the head office about it. My sales staff were trying to persuade me to keep everybody inside the shop and that it was most probably a false alarm, like it usually is. I was determined to evacuate everybody from the shop for safety reasons and would not allow anybody to deter me from my aim. The safety of my staff and customers was at the forefront of my mind, even though it wasn’t at theirs. I persisted with my actions and eventually got everybody to leave the shop. When the Fire Service arrived they informed me that there had been a small fire at the rear of the shop and that the actions I had taken were the right ones. Everybody was safe and nobody was hurt as a result of the incident.”

And here’s another example of where somebody had to deliver a difficult message:

“Whilst working as a mechanic in my current job I was faced with a situation where a customer, following a routine service, did not want to have an important piece of safety critical work carried out on her car. My task was to explain to her the dangers that she faced by not having the work carried out, and influence her to proceed with the work. I started out by explaining in simple terms the reason for the fault and the fact that she had been driving around with this dangerous problem for some time. I also explained the consequences of not having the work carried out as a matter of urgency and reassured her that the problem was genuine. After careful communication and a detailed explanation of the problem and the dangers she faced, she finally agreed to have the work carried out there and then. I fully understood how she must have been feeling and was sensitive in my communication approach. The result was that the lady would now have a safe car to drive and therefore herself and her family would not be exposed to any unnecessary dangers.”

Now use the template on the following page to create your own response to this question.

Please provide an example of how you have taken responsibility to communicate an important message.

People who work in sales generally have to deal with customer complaints. Therefore, if you are applying for a job of this nature you may have to respond to this type of question on your application form. Make sure you provide an example of where you went out of your way to resolve the issue. Take a look at the following sample response.

SAMPLE RESPONSE TO QUESTION NUMBER 17

Give an example of where you have dealt effectively with a customer complaint

“Whilst working as a sales representative for my current employer, I received a telephone call from an unhappy customer. It was my task to resolve the situation to his satisfaction whilst operating in accordance with company guidelines. I started out by listening verify carefully and attentively to his concerns and taking detailed notes about his complaint. I informed him that I fully understood his concerns and I reassured him that I would do everything possible to help him and to resolve the issue. The complaint centered on an order which he had placed online. His parcel had not yet arrived and it was now 2 weeks since the order was placed. I immediately dispatched another order priority delivery whilst on the phone to him, making sure that the order would be delivered that same day. I also informed him that I would call him later that day to make sure he was happy with the new order. To make sure that he was fully satisfied with my actions I provided him with a unique racking number for his new order. Later that day, I telephoned the gentleman to check that everything was to his satisfaction. The sound in his voice was very rewarding and I realised that with just a little help I had made such a difference to his day, making him feel like a valued customer. The result of the situation was that an initially unhappy customer was now happy with the service he had received and the company had maintained its positive image.”

Now use the template that follows to create your own response.

Give an example of where you have dealt effectively with a customer complaint