Application writing and strategies for your Supporting Statement
As a rough divide, we can say that where CVs are popular for recruitment in the private sector, and application forms dominate when it comes to not-for-profit and public sector roles. If you are well-versed at applying for the latter, you will probably be familiar with the ‘Supporting Statement’ – the section which typically lies at the end of the form asking you to evidence your suitability to the role.
This is the key shortlisting document. Failure to address this section properly is unlikely to see you secure an interview, no matter how relevant your skills or past experience.
To make a stand-out application you should locate and familiarise yourself with the Person Specification document. This is the part of the job description/application pack which lists the skills you need to be bringing to the table. Shortlisting is, essentially, a tick box exercise in which the recruiter will be looking for evidence of each and every one of these criteria points in your statement. They won’t necessarily be cross-referencing back to information in earlier parts of your application form so assume they know nothing at this point and tell them everything from scratch, even if it means a bit of repetition from earlier parts of your form.
The mistake that most people make here is in structuring their supporting statement more as a cover letter – using it to chronologically talk through their career or skill highlights. A much more favoured approach is simply taking each criteria point one by one, and working through them in the same order that they are listed, giving a clear paragraph to each point. Remember that when the criteria points are competency-based (“must have good attention to detail skills…” etc) it is fundamental that you give enough specific evidence, using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework to give your answer clarity.
Your job is to make the shortlister’s job as easy as possible. Structuring your supporting statement in the same way that the person spec is structured will do this. It is an approach which may feel a little clinical and lacking in creativity but it will ensure that the recruiter can easily find the information they need in a quick and straightforward way.
Stick to these rules and you should start to see your success rate improve. Good luck!
Don’t forget: SOAS Careers offers 1-to-1 Application Advice sessions every week during term, from 1-3pm Monday-Friday. These sessions are drop-in, so come by and we can check your CVs, cover letters, supporting statements & all other application elements to help you get the best chance of success.
Hannah Morton-Hedges is a Careers Consultant working with the SOAS Careers Service.