With an application form, making yourself stand out is critical. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a world champion bungee jumper or a president of your own international charity to do it.
A lot of it is about the detail. Obviously your examples need to be reasonably compelling- describing your stamp collection might not do the trick. But you might have a situation you handled at work which could provide really good evidence of the sort of person you are- if only you describe it properly.
Most people aren’t that good at filling in the gaps with words because we are used to relying on other senses. If someone asks you how a friend seemed at work one day you might say ‘he seemed a bit low’, but you wouldn’t go into the detail of why you reached that assessment- it’s taken as read.
You don’t have that luxury on your application form- you need to make it seem like your assessors were actually there. Not doing this is the biggest mistake people tend to make- they assume the assessors will have an insight into what you are talking about. They won’t.
With application forms you might be asked to provide an example of a time you proved yourself a good team player. You might skim over the details, relying heavily on clichés such as ‘I work well with a team’ or ‘I’m highly motivated’ without really telling your audience much more than that.
What you need to get better at is conveying more of the richness of a scenario, giving it depth. Instead of saying that you ‘helped someone improve their performance at work’ you need to explain what you did, why you did it that way, how you did it, what alternatives you considered, why you settled on that course of action and how you evaluated it. You need to go over and above to make sure you’ve really painted a full picture. It’s a bit like someone asking what you wore to a party and you saying ‘a shirt’. What you actually might have worn was a short sleeved shirt because it was a warm evening, a pair of jeans you didn’t mind getting beer spilt on, shoes in case you were going to be going on to a club, a splash of your favourite aftershave, too much gel in your hair and a cheeky smile.
Now that gives us a much better picture!