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The main season for graduate recruitment in Australia is here. I know this because I am starting to get requests for assistance with filling in graduate application forms. Between March and April, many of the large graduate employers are open for graduate applications. Click here to find the closing dates for a number of significant 2011 graduate programs. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade closes on 22nd March, Centrelink on 27th April, and Commonwealth Bank on 7th April. If you want more details about the major graduate employers in Australia, visit Career Fairs or Grad Connection.

To give you some idea of what you will need to address in an application, the following questions are asked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade graduate application form.

Question 1: Qualifications and knowledge Why are you applying for the Graduate Trainee program in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade? What skills and attributes would you be able to contribute to DFAT’s goals and work? You should give examples based on your academic achievements, work experience and/or extracurricular activities.

Question 2: Written and oral communication skills Provide examples of where your written and oral communication and negotiation skills have been most effective in the workplace or elsewhere. What outcomes were achieved?

Question 3: Conceptual and analytical skills  Describe a situation in which you have had to identify and analyse a problem or issue and then recommend a solution. How did you go about the task? What was the outcome? What constraints did you face in developing the solution?

Question 4: Effective working relations  What makes you an effective team member? How do you respond to problems or conflict within a team? Give an example of how you have contributed to a team’s achievements.

Question 5: Flexibility, adaptability and initiative  Give an example of where you have taken on an unfamiliar task or faced a challenge, whether in the workplace, your studies or extra-curricular activities. Describe how you prepared for and took on that task or challenge. What did you find most difficult about the experience?

If you are applying for a graduate role in the Commonwealth Bank, be prepared to answer the following:

 • Select up to two business unit program preferences. Please tell us why we should consider you for your first preference.

• Please tell us why we should consider you for your second preference.

• Please tell us about the extracurricular activities you have been involved in.

• Why have you chosen the Commonwealth Bank group as a potential future employer?

Why do you think the Commonwealth Bank graduate program aligns with your career goals?

• What does good customer service mean to you?

• Did you attend a Career Fair? Please specify at which Careers Fair you spoke with a Commonwealth Bank representative

• Did you attend a Commonwealth Bank campus presentation? Which campus presentation did you attend?

• Are you a member of a university or industrial society? • What was the main factor that influenced you to apply for the, Commonwealth Bank graduate program?

 Some Tips for completing a Graduate Application Form:

• remember that in these programs employers are not just offering a job. They hope you will grow into one of their future leaders.

 • while employers understand that graduates will apply for a number of organisations, they will be expecting that you are genuinely motivated to work for them. Therefore, you need to research the company or government agency and to make sure you match your achievements, interests and skills to how you can add most value to that employer.

 • it will take time to write good responses for the application form. So set aside quality time, draft your responses in Word, and get someone to proof read your answers before you transfer them across to the online application form.

• start by brainstorming all of your experience, knowledge and achievements – in your studies (individual and group assignments), work, voluntary and community activities. Try to use a different example to highlight your claims for each question.

• talk to people that you respect and get their ideas on what they see as your achievements and strengths. I find that most people overlook significant achievements.

 • it is okay to seek professional help with the writing of responses for your application form, you will not be the only person who does this. However you need to feel that the end result truly represents and matches how you will present to an assessment committee.

• be honest, as the application form is just the start of the selection process. If you overstate your claims you will need to live up to this in the interviews and other assessment processes.

• if you are stuck for the right words to use to fully present your case, you can access free online information, borrow books on selection criteria from the University or Council libraries, or purchase books written about addressing selection criteria. Just make sure that you access contemporary information.

 The good news is that new research by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) shows 21 per cent of employers will increase the scale of their graduate programs in 2010.

Good luck with your application.

For more tips on answering graduate questions – please subscribe to this blog (top left corner).

For expert assistance with preparing your application you can contact me at  or ph 0403766812


I was recently asked for hints about attending graduate assessment centres.  These are some tips that I gave:

  • read as much as you can about the organisation and the associated industry – sometimes you will be given an exercise to assess your connectedness with current events.
  • it is important to contribute, but not dominate or talk too much at these assessment centres. 
  • meet the assessor politely, but do not monopolise their time.
  • remember they will be looking for graduates who can become leaders of the future, so the focus will usually be on looking at your team and leadership skills. Leaders have a future focus, show drive to achieve results, communicate in a way that influences others, have high ethical standards, and manage relationships well.
  • while it is a competitive process, most organisations want to create a community feel for graduates (with social activities, Wiki etc). Expect that they will be observing your skills in engaging and getting along with others.
  • you will usually have to do something as a group and produce a result like a presentation, or solve a multifaceted problem.  The  group task may be general or may focus specifically on the things that are important to the organisation e.g. corporate responsibility, green projects. It might be worth doing a bit of reading in case some content knowledge of these areas helps.
  • if you have a planning task – think of the tools that you have learnt (SWOT, brainstorming, stakeholder analysis, project planning…….) and introduce these as a way of getting the group bonded and started. Show that you respect different styles, while also including everyone’s ideas. If it is a large task, you might need to agree on roles and responsibilities.
  • remember ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ and ‘performing’.  Show that you are comfortable in the storming stage, and that you try to find solutions to move through this to create norms that will assist the group to deliver. Think about ways that you can manage situations when someone else dominates the group or has ideas that you disagree with (have words up your sleeve like ‘that’s an interesting point, can we consider the alternate…  or .. we seem to have some different ideas on how to progress this, let’s go back to our objectives and look at our time remaining and see if we can move forward……..etc)
  • it really helps – especially if an interview is part of the assessment centre, to visualise yourself actually being a graduate in company.  Have a look at the photos on the graduate page of the Company’s website (orFacebook Page) and picture yourself there next year.
  • think of the 5 most complex things that you have achieved (study, work, volunteer, sport..) and prepare a CARLA to tell a story about each of these.   What was CHALLENGING (or Complex) about this?    What ACTIONS did you take and why?     What RESULTS did you achieve relative to what was the expected outcome?   What did you LEARN from this experience?      How could you APPLY this learning to add value as a graduate (and future leader).
  • if you cannot find out exactly what is going to happen at the assessment centre, expect a range of tasks.  You may be asked to do a written task, technical assessment, psychological testing, role plays or prioritising tasks.
  • have a good night’s sleep, stay enthusiastic and positive – and expect to be tired towards the end.

Most of all – be yourself (i.e. the most professional version of you).  The more comfortable and congruent you are, the better you will present.

 Some more tips can be found at:

If you have other ideas – please add in the comments section.

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