Skip to Content

In what capacity — Here’s What It Means on a Job Application

In what capacity — Here’s What It Means on a Job Application

Sharing is caring!

“Jargon” is the word for specialized language that you encounter in a particular field or situation.

One confusing thing about encountering jargon is that it may use language that has a meaning that is familiar to you in other contexts that makes no sense in the new context.

To make matters worse, there is a lot of jargon around applying and interviewing for a job. Just when you need to come across in the best way possible, this jargon is there to confuse you!

“In what capacity” is one of those confusing pieces of jargon. If you’re familiar with the word “capacity,” you probably think of it as having something to do with a measurable amount that an object can hold or produce.

So what does “in what capacity” have to do with job hunting? Keep reading to find out!


What does “in what capacity” mean on a job application?

“In what capacity” on a job application refers to a role or function. Therefore, the item might say something like “List your previous employers and in what capacity you worked for them,” meaning that you should write your job title.

“In what capacity” on a job application

On most job applications, there is a part of the form where you list the previous jobs you have had.

Job applications may ask you to do this even if you are attaching a separate resume that also lists your job history.

The design of job applications varies, but the application might look something like this:

In what capacity did you work?
What were your dates of employment?

Where you are asked the question, you would simply put your job title. Here’s one example:

In what capacity did you work? Waitress

You might also see “capacity” used in similar ways on an application:

Capacity in which you worked:

It would be more unusual, but you might even see it as just a single word. However, it appears, it is always asking for the same thing, your job title.

It is looking for this information even if the job you are listing was a volunteer position or an unpaid internship.

It may be a little easier to understand this usage of the word by looking at in a small dialogue instead of in isolation as it would be on a job application:

“She worked here for three years.”
“Oh, really? In what capacity?”
“She started out as a receptionist, but she had moved up to buyer by the time she left.”

Here’s another example:

The police asked me in what capacity we had employed the man. I said that he was just a temporary worker and that he had answered phones and helped with the filing.

Other ways you might see “in what capacity” on job-related material

You may also see “in what capacity” used in terms of your relationship with another person.

This is actually something that it’s more common to encounter if you are asked to give a recommendation for another person, but it’s helpful to know what it means if you see it in paperwork that you need to give to someone else.

Here are a couple of ways the question might be phrased:

In what capacity did you work with the applicant?

In what capacity do you know the applicant?

Both of these are essentially asking the same thing, which is essentially “how do you know the person who is applying for this job?”

The reply to the first question might be something like “I was Suzanne’s supervisor for nine months when she worked at the Double R Diner.”

The second question is not necessarily for a colleague or manager from work, so the answer might say something like, “I was Lisa’s professor for English 101 and 102.”