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14            Applications, supporting statements and personal statements



Applications – the basics


(Givens: to really take seriously, work on a photocopy/sheet of paper first, keep a  copy of what has been sent, complete in black biro)


·         Do not scatter-gun.  Decide on a direction and stick at it.

·         Put in your best effort – they WILL notice if you don’t.

·         ‘Full’ or ‘complete’ details means what it says.  Where it doesn’t, you may have licence to pick and choose.

·         Personal/supporting statements on application forms: these are not optional - they are important:


Writing supporting statements on application forms


          Pay attention to the introductory sentence:

If you are told that the statement should address ‘why you want to work for the company’ and ‘how you will be able to contribute’, it wants answers to both.

In the latter case, you are helped by the Person Specification, which your application should be written around.  The Person Specification is the document by which you will usually be measured in the shortlist decision.


The difference between Job Description/Specification and  Person Specification.

The job description is a list of the tasks and responsibilities which you would be expected to undertake within the advertised position.  You use this to decide if you want the job and it may well become the material for much of the interview.

The person specification lists the personal qualities and/or experience required of the candidate.  The shortlisting process looks at which candidates match this (or come close).  The statement should, therefore, run in the order of the person specification and should cite examples of how the criteria are met.  This assists the sifting process. 


The statement needs to address the specifications, also keeping in mind the introductory sentence.    An abbreviated fictional example follows.




Marketing Researcher for Carpets R Us


Job Description                                     


Designing questionnaires                         

Supervising telephone interviewers            

Collating and interpreting data                            

Written reports                                                                  

Presentations to Senior Management

Keeping up to date in research methods

Using SPSS statistics package


Person  Specification





          Previous employment in a commercial setting

          Research work at least at higher education level

          Preparation of written reports



          Research design and methods, including quantitative methods

          Numeracy and literacy to good GCSE level



          Good telephone manner

Good oral communications

          Use of information technology





          Management positions

Group presentations



          Degree in statistics or marketing

          Membership of an appropriate professional body



          Use of teaching aids

          Computer statistics packages, preferably SPSS or MiniStat

An example.


Supporting Statement:   using only one page, tell us why you wish to work for CarpetsRUs and anything which you believe would support your application.


   I wish to pursue a career in Market Research and believe that the position at CarpetsRUs will prove both a challenge and an opportunity to develop.  As a a market leader, CarpetsRUs demonstrate an innovative approach to marketing;  I believe that I can be an asset in maintaining a leading edge, by high quality research combined with commercial awareness. 

   I am able to offer the following qualities:



   My work experience placement at Crabbs Keys gave me an understanding of stock control as well as customer attitudes.  Part-time work at Burger King has given me experience of customer service, often under pressure.   The latter job also included some supervisory work.  

   Project work on the HND included quantitative and qualitative research, particularly pertaining to customer behaviour in retail settings.   The HND included a module devoted to Marketing, including analysis of market segmentation.   All areas of the course included written work, including model reports.  The placement at Crabbs was followed by an evaluation report.  This was presented to the student group; other presentations for which I was responsible included a talk on the relevance of international economic trends for the citizens of Hammersmith.   This included use of an overhead projector.



   Research design and methods were taught as part of the marketing module of HND Business Studies.  I designed a questionnaire as part of my practical project and analysed the results of a fellow student’s survey using correlations (Spearman).  Other methods taught on the course were in-depth qualitative interviewing and tests of significant difference (Mann-Whitney; 59Wilcoxon), as well as the theory of econometrics.  As well as the statistical learning, I studied English and  Mathematics in the final year of my Baccalaureate. I also hold GCSE English at grade C.   I am a Student Member of the British Institute of [……..]



   In both of the above-mentioned work positions, I regularly dealt with customer enquiries over the telephone and formed part of a team.  It was often necessary to discuss stock needs and areas of the workplace where additional attention was needed.

   I am computer literate, using Word, Excel and Database.  Although I have not used a statistics package before, I am confident of being able to quickly learn how to use one; as well as the above-mentioned packages, I taught myself how to use the stock control software at Crabbs and am generally keen on learning how to use different IT applications.


[The applicant has used the person specification, but puts ‘essentials’ and ‘desirables’ together to give a natural look and to diminish weak areas somewhat.  Use student experiences where necessary.  Use examples: “I can” is not enough.



Writing personal statements for higher education:

     These should be written by the prospective students.  The practitioner’s role, in addition to general education about these, may be to suggest possible additions, challenge unwise entries and comment generally on style.  Help which raises the application well above the general capability of the student, however, is likely to reflect badly upon the service within which you serve and may well lead to personal disaster for your client, gaining entry to a course  for which he or she is not ready.

     Main points:

     Think tutor:  when the student feels the need to make the statement fill the whole statement space (usually with waffle), try explaining the utter tedium of trying to read fifty of such statements. 

      The main points are required, and they are personal:  students should avoid introductory textbook discussions of their subject (‘…. ever expanding changing dynamic [subject] …. changing the world …. ‘).These say nothing about the person, who should be trying to distinguish him/herself from other people.   Advice about possible entries are suggested in UCAS literature and elsewhere.  The most important points are, and will probably remain, why the course is sought and what the student has to offer.Why do you want to study French/IT/Zoology/Sociology/etc.?       The student may describe how they became interested in the subject, what they have read/studied in this field, any interests in specific sub-sections of the subject, particular parts of current studies which interest the student and considerations of future study/career     (not necessarily certain, but should have been thought about)

      What can you offer?   - give examples: Experience – performance within projects, at work, voluntary positions, etc.        Personal qualities – students could discuss these with each other, as individuals usually find it difficult to address this unaided.     Skills – other languages spoken, etc.          Specific knowledge, especially where this is relevant to the course applied for (generally, not a rehash of the further education course)


When preparatory work has been completed, the applicant should attempt to order and adjust paragraphs in such a way that each follows the other as ‘naturally’ as possible.  Where possible, the final sentence of one paragraph should to some extent ‘flag up’ the likely content of the next paragraph.


Where possible, emphasise the individual and the difference from other candidates, at least a taste of what the person is like.



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CareerSteer – career test for career choice