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Organisational and Professional Development

Writing an application

The Application: Basics

  • The application is used by the selection panel to choose who to interview. It will be scored against the Person Specification for the role.
  • Most of an application form will be factual: your work history, your education and qualifications, and personal details such as your address and phone number.
  • You may be asked to attach a copy of your CV. Having an up-to-date CV is useful as it will help you to record your educational and employment history on an application form.
  • In most application forms, there will be a section asking for personal information such as your gender, sexual orientation, religion etc. This is optional; you can complete all of it, some of it, or none at all.
    • This data is used for statistical purposes only (to identify gender differences in recruitment, for example) and will not be seen by the selection panel.
    • The one exception is around disability. You do not have to disclose any disability you have.  However, some employers use the Disability Confident (previously Two Ticks) scheme, which guarantees an interview to applicants who meet all the essential criteria for a role.
  • Make sure that everything is accurate and spelled correctly! If you have time, writing it and going back to it the next day will help you to look at what you’ve written with fresh eyes, so it’s easier to catch mistakes.
  • Internal applications: If you’re applying for a role within a restructure, you may only have to indicate which roles you’re interested in and write a personal statement (see below) about your suitability.

The Application: Personal Statement

The personal statement is the part of an application where you write about your suitability for the role(s) you’re applying for.  This should be written in full sentences rather than bullet points, and you may have a word limit.

You do not have to repeat things you have already written (e.g. your qualifications).

Internal applications: If you’re applying for an internal role, you cannot assume the selection panel already know anything about you or your achievements.  They can only use the information you give them to make their decisions.  Write this statement as if the panel members don’t know anything about you or your work!

Using the Person Specification as a checklist, it should be easy for a selection panellist to read your Personal Statement and check how you meet the criteria.  Writing your statement in the same order as the Person Specification makes it easier for both of you!

Most panels will use a scoring system, such as this example:

  • 0 points - Does not meet the criteria: Criteria not mentioned.  No examples given.
  • 1 point - Partially meets the criteria: Criteria mentioned but no examples.  Relevant examples included but connection with criteria not made explicit.
  • 2 points - Criteria met in full: Criteria explicitly addressed and supported with evidence from past/current practice.

Therefore, a good format is to mention the criterion, then give an example of how you meet it.  For example, if the criterion is:

Ability to handle difficult situations with tact and sensitivity

Then you could write something like this, referring to your own experience:

I am able to handle difficult situations sensitively and tactfully.  In my current role, I have identified distressed students and approached them privately, ensuring there are no immediate needs before asking about their situation and signposting to the appropriate source of support (e.g. the Disability & Dyslexia Service).

This mentions the criterion (1 point) and gives an example which is clearly linked to it (2 points). 

Since you will have to repeat this for all criteria not covered elsewhere in the application, keep it concise: 1-2 sentences per criterion should be enough!

If you can’t fully meet some of the criteria, don’t ignore them.  For example, if the criterion is:

Experience of line management or supervision of staff

If you don’t have this experience, you could draw on experience you do have to say something like:

I have not yet line-managed staff, however I do have experience of project management, which has involved delegating work and giving feedback.  I have also been responsible for mentoring and inducting new colleagues.

In this example, you may be able to get 1 point instead of 0 for this criterion.

If you aren’t shortlisted

If you are not shortlisted for interview, in most cases you will not be offered feedback.  You will probably be sent an automated message such as: ‘Unfortunately, in this instance you have not been shortlisted for interview’. 

Internal applications: If you are applying for an internal role, Queen Mary policy states that you should be offered feedback by the Recruiting Manager.  If you have the opportunity for feedback, take it!  It may help you to be successful next time.

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