Filling out the application

In this module, we learn what is involved in the initial application. 

Key takeaways and extra info

Answering questions

Please be VERY aware that the online system can time out and you will lose all your answers if you have not saved them. Work offline and copy and paste when you are ready. 

Repeat this formula for every single screening question:

  • What your job was (title and location);
  • When you did it (gives an indication of duration); and,
  • What you did + what that means. Talk about the actual tasks you did and the skills you used, not the context. 

For example: I have experience in researching, analyzing, and synthesizing information. I gained this experience by...

Use keywords in your answers (see links below). 

Copy and paste the exact wording from the job postings when describing what requirement you are meeting. 

Formal job experience is best, but academic and volunteer experience can also be used. 

Cover letter

If you are asked for a cover letter, don’t worry about long it will end up being. Make sure you use the same formula as with the screening questions and address every requirement/criteria listed in the job posting. 

Answer bank

Create a bank of answers that you can quickly modify, and then copy and paste into each new application. 

Links to check out

Find keywords associated with requirements: Competency dictionary and Evaluation standards

Need help with your application or interview?

I would love to help! If offer 45min 1-on-1 coaching sessions for $75. Feel free to book a time in my calendar through the link below:

Book a 45min coaching session

Do you have questions about this module?

To contact us, fill out the form below and we’ll
get back to you within 24 hours.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Hello, and bonjour friends. Welcome to module two - filling out your initial application. So in the last module, we talked about how to analyze and read federal job postings. In this module, we're going to talk about how to fill out the initial application form. 

At this stage of the process, you're going to be asked to fill out a series of questions on the online portal. Based on your answers you'll be determined to either have met the essential qualifications that we talked about in module one, or not. If you meet those essential qualifications, you'll be what's called screened in. And if not, you'll be screened out. 

I'll go over all the different sections of the things that you'll be asked for on the online portal. But the most important part is answering the screening questions. The screening questions are basically your opportunity to describe how you meet those essential qualifications. 

When applying for federal government jobs, the screening questions essentially replace what a cover letter does and most other things. In terms of content, the key here is details, details, details, the people screening your application, can't infer anything from your answers. They have to judge whether or not you meet a requirement based on the exact words in front of them. It's up to you to prove that you meet the requirement without any doubt.

For every screening question, you're going to have to provide one or more examples of how you meet that requirement. And in each answer, you're going to have to explicitly state, three things. 

The first thing is what your job was in that example, and that includes job title and location. The second part is when you did it or for how long, so did you have the job for two years? Were you in that position for three? Did you do that task for X, Y, Z? And the third thing is what you did and what it means. So that means talking about the skills that you use and the tasks that you did, you don't need to go into context, just the things that you actually did. 

So I just want to be clear that this is the part of the process where most people trip up, because this is a very unnatural way of answering questions that you include so many details on every single question, but honestly, you just have to do it. This is the only way to get screened in and move on to the next step. 

Now let's talk about the process. Obviously creating answers in this way takes a lot of time. If you're going to be applying to a lot of different jobs, you don't want to have to be recreating answers every single time. If you're applying to multiple similar types of jobs, you're going to be asked the same screening questions over and over.

In order to work as efficiently as possible. I suggest creating an answer bank where you can just quickly modify small little details and then copy and paste them into each new application. I'll show you mine so you can see what it looks like. And you can also get a sense of how those three elements look like in practice.

Alrighty, so welcome to my answers. You'll see that I just work in Google docs, but use whatever works for you. At the top of my screen, I always like to include those key elements so that they're top of mind when I'm developing my answers. 

So at the beginning of your answer is really important to explicitly state that you have experience in whatever they're asking. If they're asking for a specific number of years of experience, make sure you state that as well. So here you see, I have four years of experience in X, Y, Z. 

Next, follow up with one or two examples with these elements. First, do you want to have the position title. So here I was a senior advisor for curriculum design, where the position was. So I was at the New Zealand ministry of education. And for how long you were in that position. So May, 2017 to June, 2018 team. 

Then you dive into the bulk of your example, and that's where you're describing the tasks that you did and the result, I also recommend peppering in a few key words.

A great place to find keywords is this competency dictionary that I've linked to below in this dictionary. There's definitions of what the government means by different competencies that are found in job posting. So you can see that this is on the immigration and refugees website, but it doesn't matter, they're used across government so it's a good resource. 

So if one of your screening questions asks for, for example, adaptability or flexibility, just go right down here and pull out these sentences and this wording to use in your answer to the screening question. 

Now, jumping back to my example bank, you'll see that I have lots of different examples under different headings, depending on the types of questions that often come up in the job postings that I'm applying for. 

So the answers don't necessarily need to be super long, but they just do need to have those key elements. 

If you look at this one, I have that first sentence that explicitly says that I have the experience they're looking for, and then I've demonstrated through two different roles.  That I did what they were asking. 

These days being asked to answer screening questions is a lot more common than being asked to provide a cover letter. But just in case you do, I will prepare you for that as well. If you are asked for a cover letter first and foremost, forget the one-page rule, the cover letter just needs to be as long as it needs to be for you to demonstrate that you meet those requirements.

You can also forget about being creative or using interesting pros. It's a waste of time. Just being straight to the point is best. You'll use the exact same formula as you would to develop answers to your screening questions, but just adding one or two sentences at the beginning and end. 

Now I'll show you an example of one of my cover letters that got me successfully screened into a process. While also highlighting a few other things to be conscious of. 

So you'll see that it is very, very basic, I started off by stating what job I'm applying. Then that I believe that I had the experience and qualifications needed to meet the basic requirements.

Next, pull out the requirements in the order that they're listed in the job posting and use them as headers. So in order to demonstrate that they have the education that they're looking for, I just copied and pasted that header. And then instead of just saying, yes, I have a bachelor's of arts. I said in 2014, I obtained a bachelor's of arts, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Now I want to highlight a few other little tips and tricks. You'll see here that they're asking for knowledge of CSIS’, his mandate, and a few other things. Now I don't have any formal experience in that, but I did state that I had undertaken my own research in order to gain knowledge of their mandate and priorities and things like that. And it seemed to have worked. So I think that that's something that you could try using as well.

Jumping into the competencies, I just want to reiterate that we use that same formula from the screening questions. So they're asking for strong oral and written communication. So in that very first sentence, I say I have strong oral and written communication skills. 

Just to reiterate don't paraphrase, copy and paste from the job postings. For example, here, you'll see that in the job posting teamwork was spelled with two words. So that's how I spelled it in my answer, despite the fact that my auto-correct kept trying to change it back. But sometimes this part of the process is done by a computer program, so you want to make sure that you're using the wording that it will recognize.

So the last thing I want to highlight is around your language requirements. Now, I started off my answer by explicitly saying that I can meet the proficiency for the position. And if you have already done testing with the government of Canada, this is the place to say it. But if you haven't, which I hadn't at the time, I also provided evidence to show that if I were to do the testing, I would be able to pass it with a lot of certainty. 

With all this talk of screening questions and cover letters, you might be wondering what about my resume? And actually, in these processes, resumes are not hugely important. It's mostly used as a supporting document for the answers you're providing in your screening questions or cover letter. Because of this, I personally do not tailor my resume to each individual role. Once I developed a solid version that I really liked, I just used it over and over again on a technical note, though, your resume does need to be completely unformatted. 

So I'll quickly show you how to do that. First things first, you're gonna want to pull up the formatted version of your resume. So here's mine - it looks good, if I do say so myself. And then you're going to want to pull up a program that will be able to remove all of that formatting. And so for windows computers, that will be Notepad. And then for Macs which is what I have, it'll be Text Edits. 

So you're just going to want to copy all of the text, bring up Text Edit, paste it in, and you'll see that it's still formatted, but then you will want to go to format, and make plain text. From there, you're going to want to clean it up to make sure that it looks good. So remove all of the things that are not important, especially things like types of bullets and those kinds of special characters. 

So I'm done editing that first section of my resume and you'll see that there's no particular style, nothing fancy, it is just the plain words. And from here, you're going to be able to copy and paste this right into the online. 

In the next video, we're going to go through the process of filling out the initial application for a job from start to finish on the online portal. But before you jump to the next video, I want you to take those five jobs that you found after module one and apply the learnings from today.

What that means is pulling up those job postings, identifying those essential requirements, and starting to develop your answers based on the formula that we talked about today, then I want you to take your resume and take away all the formatting to put it into that plain text version. 

I hope you enjoyed this video, good luck with the exercise and I'll see you in the next one.

Do you have questions about this module?

To contact us, fill out the form below and we’ll
get back to you within 24 hours.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.