Competency-Based Application Form

Completing Competency-based Application Forms for Public Sector Job Applications…

Competency-based Application Forms for Public Sector

In the last 10-15 years now, public sector job openings have no longer required or requested a Resumé / Curriculum Vitae (CV) from interested candidates to apply for them. There are many reasons for this:

  • CV’s come in all shapes and sizes
  • Very difficult to see/find the relevant information
  • They make it difficult to ask the same questions from every candidate during the interview

So, they have introduced Competency-based Applications Forms, where they look for the usual information from a CV i.e. Education, Qualifications, Training and Work Experience AND they ask for specific examples against required competencies needed to deliver on the job’s duties and responsibilities such as Planning & Organising, Communication, Making Decisions, Providing a Quality Service, Teamwork, Leadership, People Management, Drive & Commitment for example. The former is used on whether or not to invite the candidate for an interview, while the latter is used on whether or not to offer the candidate the job.

Outlined below are guidelines to what and how the public sector want interested candidates to complete a Competency-Based Application Form taken from one of their recently advertised jobs on

A Competency-Based Application Form requires you, the candidate, to describe some of your personal achievements to-date that demonstrate certain competencies (necessary skills and qualities) required for the position you are applying for (e.g. Leader of Education and Learning, Leader of Centre Development, Communication Skills etc.).

A definition of a skill or quality is given for each competency. You are then asked to describe a situation, from your own experience, which you think is the best example of what YOU have done which demonstrates this skill or quality. It is essential that you describe how you demonstrated the skill or quality in question.

You are advised to structure what you write so that you give specific information about what you have done – for example, do not simply say that “X was successful”, describe exactly what you did and how you demonstrated the skill or quality in question.

For each example please include the following:

(a) the nature of the task, problem or objective;

(b) what you actually did and how you demonstrated the skill or quality (and, where      appropriate, the date you demonstrated it)

(c) the outcome or result of the situation and your estimate of the proportion of credit you can claim for the outcome.

Please do not use the same example to illustrate your answer to more than two skill areas.

Please note that, should you be called to interview, the board may look for additional examples of where you demonstrated the skills required for this post so you should think of a number of examples of where you demonstrated each of the skills.

Competency-based Application Forms for Public Sector


Further Education – Sources of Information and Courses

When it comes to searching for and researching further education course options in Ireland, there is no shortage of information, especially On-Line. Every part-time, full-time, classroom, On-Line, blended-learning course is there for you to read about and understand. There are three main On-Line websites that contain any course that you may be looking for; you just need to take some time and patience to read about them and then choose the right one for you, based on your current or future ideal job / career.


They are:

    • Qualifax is Ireland’s National Learners’ Database and is the “one stop shop” for learners and the public.   Comprehensive, annually updated information is provided about further and higher education and training options in Ireland and further afield. Articles and links are also provided to assist students, job seekers, parents, guidance professionals and graduates to make informed choices for education, training and career pathways. Qualifax is a service provided by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.
    • CareersPortal provides all the tools you need to help you find and develop your career. We believe you deserve the best and encourage you to spend time discovering what makes you different and unique, so you can build your own future. Above you will find links to our Junior Certificate, Transition Year and Leaving Certificate pages. Select the programme which is relevant to you and make use of the resources we have developed to guide you in exploring your future. You can access a range of resources designed to assist you with making sound, informed decisions about your career direction. As you progress through college, you change and grow and become more aware of what life has to offer.
    • Further Education and Training or FET, offers a wide variety of life-long education options to anyone over 16. FET includes apprenticeships, traineeships, Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses, community and adult education as well as core literacy and numeracy services. FET courses and programmes are provided through the Education and Training Board network throughout the country as well as through other local providers including online through SOLAS’ eCollege. FET courses are provided at levels one to six on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

Do remember that before actually choosing the course and paying for I;  you need to know why you are doing it and that it is part of your future job/career plans, where it will deliver a new job, new career, promotion and/or a brand new opportunity…

Putting yourself on paper…

There are seven ways of putting yourself on paper so as to impress interviewers who read about you and then want to speak/meet you for a general interview and/or a competency-based interview through a telephone interview, Skype interview or a face-to-face interview. These seven ways are:

  1. General Curriculum Vitae
  2. Tailored Curriculum Vitae
  3. Tailored Cover Letter
  4. Executive Summary
  5. LinkedIn Profile
  6. Application Form
  7. Target Letter

Let’s discuss each one in turn briefly and how they are all different, to help you use them according to your needs and preferences and ultimately to secure a general interview or a competency-based interview in a role and organisation of your choice.

General Curriculum Vitae

A General Curriculum Vitae is primarily used when working with recruitment agencies, where the document covers all of your experience relevant to the various types of jobs you want

Tailored Curriculum Vitae

A Tailored Curriculum Vitae is where you tailor your Curriculum Vitae against a live, open job that you wish to apply for, where you use specific words and statements from the job description and the organisation’s website.

Tailored Cover Letter

A Tailored Cover Letter is where you tailor a Cover Letter against a live, open job that you wish to apply for, where you use specific words and statements from the job description and the organisation’s website.

Executive Summary

This a one full page document summarising your Curriculum Vitae, normally used for people applying for high level managerial / directorship roles.

LinkedIn Profile is like having your Curriculum Vitae On-Line, where you set up a profile and transfer relevant general information from your Curriculum Vitae. You would also include your LinkedIn Profile link on your Curriculum Vitae.

Application Form

Many public sector organisations are requiring the completion of Competency-based Application Forms, rather than Curriculum Vitae’s when they advertise new opportunities. They require you to give examples to certain and specific on-the-job competencies.

Target Letter

This letter is used when you want to find the unadvertised jobs and it is where you target organisations that you want to work in and write a personal / posted letter to decision-makers, not HR.

competency-based application form

Are Competency-based Application Forms making the CV Redundant?

Competency-based Application Forms

For many people who work in the public sector and want to ‘career or job’ progress through its various departments / sections or people who want to work in the public sector, the now new norm is to apply by completing a competency-based application form. Rarely nowadays is a CV requested. A Covering Letter i.e. an expression of interest may be requested, but the CV is simply not required, as the application form covers everything that the hiring managers need.

For many people who work in the private sector and want to ‘career or job’ progress in the organisation or people who want to work in the private sector, the norm is still to apply by developing a Cover Letter and a CV. The private sector has not yet embraced competency-based application forms, though there is a huge focus on competencies at interview stage, similar to the private sector.

One would have thought that by now the private sector would have embraced and designed competency-based application forms for their specific industry / departments. However, as the use of competencies in recruiting and selecting are over 20 years in existence now, it is unlikely that the private sector will use them now, like the public sector do.

Competency-based application forms have the following advantages over CV’s:

• Allows the applicant give actual examples of where they have used a key skill in the past that is relevant to the role on offer
• There is consistency in the application forms for the interviewers
• It allows the interview to be more structured

CV’s have the following advantages over competency-based application forms:

• Are never more that 2-3 pages in length, whereas competency-based application forms can be over 20 pages
• They can give the interviewer a quicker overview of the applicant
• It is easier for the applicant to apply for the role, as competency-based application forms can take days / weeks to complete.

Competency-based Interview

What I should invest in – The Competency-based Application Form or The Competency-based Interview?