How to apply to an apprenticeship that has a competency-based application process

A competency-based application for an apprenticeship or entry level career is a popular method of recruitment by governmental bodies including the civil service. They often don’t require a curriculum vitae (CV) uploaded with the application but instead break down the application into each section of a typical CV, followed by a list of 3 or 4 competencies that they are looking for in the applicant. A competency is essentially a skill an individual has that can be demonstrated successfully and professionally. Some examples of civil service competencies include:

  • Developing self and others
  • Communicating and influencing 
  • Working together
  • Making effective decisions  

This section of the application will usually have a word limit around 250 words per competence. These examples are what make you stand out from other applicants, and as an apprentice it’s not always about your education history but what basic skills and behaviours you can bring to the organisation. If you have come straight from school or sixth form, your examples of the asked competencies are expected to be simple, basic and personal examples - this could include how you organised your time during exams, how you worked in a team at your part-time job or taking part in extra-curricular activities. 

To structure your answer you’ll need to be concise with only 250 words. It is best to use the STAR format to write your answers cover all the criteria the employers are looking for. STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action and Result. Make sure you focus on one different example for each competency, don’t use the same situation for more than one competency. Before submitting the application it is worth getting your answers proof read by your family, friends and/or teachers. They can also help you think of ideas/examples for the competencies if you are struggling. 

The advertisement will often have criteria that they are looking for in your examples, so use this as a checklist.   

Don’t worry about going into detail because in your interview they’ll be asking questions based on your given examples where you’ll have the time to go into detail.

Final word of advice, if the job advertisement has a personal name, email and phone number, you must contact them to stand out to demonstrate passion and excitement!

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