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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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4 How to present yourself to an employer

Illustration of person stood on top of a box presenting to people around them.
Figure 3 Presenting yourself

Many employers are moving towards a competency-based assessment of candidates.

Competencies are a set of knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours. When you apply for a job an employer will ask for a range of these and you need to show how you can meet these by providing evidence.

The basic idea behind competency-based recruitment is that if you can demonstrate you did something in the past, you can do it in the future.

So, if you come across this it means you have to adopt a particular approach to be successful. Fortunately, there are techniques that greatly increase the chances of success.

Activity 3 will have refreshed your skill in using ‘evidence’ of what you have done in the past to show what you are capable of now. You can now enhance this by learning to use a technique that is very useful for answering competency based questions you might find on an application form.

It is a widely used technique known as ‘STAR’.

When using this technique, you think about a specific piece of experience you want to offer up and describe it in the following way.

  • Situation – Think about a specific situation and when it happened.
  • Task – Was a task required in that situation and what were you supposed to achieve by completing it?
  • Action – What action(s) did you take to complete the task?
  • Results – Think about the outcome of the actions you took.

This really helps you to organise your thoughts. However, this technique alone may not keep you entirely on track, so it can be used in combination with another known as ‘RAPPAS’. This translates as:

  • Relevant – The skill you put forward needs to be relevant to what is being asked for.
  • Action –Include what you actually did (rather than what you might do if in a hypothetical situation), or something you learned.
  • Personal – Focus on what you personally did, rather than what other people did or what happened generally. Don’t say what ‘we’ did, say what ‘I’ did.
  • Positive – Use a situation with a good outcome, even if everything was not achieved as planned.
  • Appropriate – You need to feel comfortable to talk about the situation, so choose examples which would allow this.
  • Specific – Give one example, not a mixture of different examples.

It is easier to understand this when you see it in practice, so in the next activity you’ll review someone else’s attempt before trying it with yourself.

Activity 4 Suzy’s competency evidence

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes

Read the following case study and then consider whether Suzy has followed STAR and RAPPAS to enable her to present the strongest evidence of her ability to manage conflict. Concentrate on the six points of RAPPAS and write your thoughts in the box provided.

Case Study

Suzy has applied for the job of production shift leader in the manufacturing plant where she currently works as a materials buyer. One of the skills listed in the person specification is handling conflict and the application form asks the candidate to:

Please describe a conflict which you have had to manage and say how you approached the issue and what resolution was achieved?

Suzy’s response is as follows:

I volunteer on Saturdays at a local retail charity shop. There is an official manager for the shop, but everyone else is a volunteer. The manager only works every other Saturday, but we can contact her for advice by telephone if there is a problem. Mostly, on Saturdays, there will be three volunteers because it is a busy day, but not always the same three. Most of us get along ok but there is one woman, Tricia, who tends to act as if she were in charge when the manager is not around. For example, she is always telling us what needs to be done, when we know for ourselves.

Last Saturday, we had a new volunteer working with us who was asked by a customer to put something by for them for a day or two until they got paid. She didn’t know if this was allowed or not, and started to ask me, but Tricia butted in and, in front of the customer, started saying that it was not allowed because we couldn’t show favouritism amongst customers. The customer was embarrassed, said it didn’t matter, handed the item back and started to leave the shop. Our new volunteer was upset and said that she didn’t think Tricia had a right to tell her off in front of the customer like that.

Tricia said she had every right, if she was about to make a mistake. I tried to cut in and say I’d been helping, but she just talked over me.

I was really angry but there didn’t seem to be much that I could do at the time. On Monday when our manager was back in, I explained to her what had happened and said that I was not happy with working on Saturdays if Tricia was also scheduled to work. She agreed that she would keep us on different working weeks in future, so I was glad I had raised the issue then because it resolved the problem of possible conflict between us.

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Relevance – Not strong, because it shows how the manager of the shop chose to deal with a member of staff who found it difficult to work with another. It did not showcase Suzy’s own ability to find a solution to the problem between her and her colleague.

Action – Meets this criteria because it says what actually happened.

Personal – Meets this criteria because it is clear what Suzy did for herself.

Positive – Not strong, because it avoids rather than resolves the issue. Although the manager arranges for Suzy not to work with Tricia, the actual conflict was between Tricia and the new volunteer and this could happen again.

Appropriate – Yes, this is probably ok, in that it is not too personal or emotive an example, provided that Suzy does not get angry all over again if asked about it in interview.

Specific – Meets this criteria because it is an example of one incident.

Practising with someone else’s example is a good way to get a feel for what works, and what does not. However, it is always better to use your own example, so if you have time you might want to revisit Activity 4 now. This is not essential though because you will revisit the technique in Week 7.

So far this week, you have considered the need to:

  • find out about the work and what skills are needed
  • make of the most of the main skills you have that are required to do the job and provide examples that show these skills.

Next you need to think about how to complete an application form and make sure you do yourself justice.