Personal and supporting statements
What's the difference?
When applying for jobs or further study you will likely be asked to write a personal statement or a supporting statement. Although it sounds like they could be the same thing, there are specific differences between the two. Understanding the differences will help you prepare a strong and appropriate application.
A personal statement is used in applications for further study. A supporting statement is used in job applications to demonstrate your suitability for the role.
Your personal statement is your opportunity to make your postgraduate application stand out. This piece of writing is similar to the personal statement that you likely submitted for your undergraduate degree application. It’s a chance for you to show your passion for studying, highlight relevant skills and experiences, and outline your future goals. Since most postgraduate applications are made directly to each institution you apply to, you should customise your statement for each institution and course to maximise its impact.
What to include
Craft a strong personal statement by checking the institution's website and course information for specific guidelines. Make sure to tailor your statement to the specific course and university you are applying to by addressing the following key points:
Motivations and career goals: Explain your interest in the course, its relevance to your academic and career aspirations, and how it aligns with your future ambitions.
Reasons for choosing the institution: Highlight what sets the institution apart and specific aspects of the course that excite you, such as modules or work experience opportunities.
Your academic skills: Showcase how your undergraduate degree has prepared you for postgraduate study and highlight your relevant academic achievements.
Your additional skills, experience, and interests: Mention extracurricular activities, relevant work experience, and other interests that will make you an excellent postgraduate student at their institution.
How to structure them
Create a compelling personal statement using the following structure:
- Beginning: Engage the reader with a captivating introduction, showcasing your motivations for choosing the course.
- Middle: Use separate paragraphs to highlight your skills, experience, and knowledge of the institution. You can use the STAR technique to help you structure your examples.
- End: Summarise why you are an ideal candidate for the course and deserving of a place.
Write concisely and positively. Write one side of A4 unless there is a specific word or character limit provided in the guidelines.
What are they?
A supporting statement is a crucial part of many job applications, particularly in education, public sector, and non-profit organisations.
It allows you to demonstrate how you meet ALL the essential and, if possible, desirable criteria outlined in the employer's person specification.
What is a person specification?
A person specification is a document that lists the skills, experience, and knowledge required for the job. Each criterion is labelled as 'essential' or 'desirable.' Be careful – some person specifications will be a separate document that you have to download.
Your supporting statement will be assessed against the person specification and determine whether you progress to the next stage of the recruitment process, typically an interview. Therefore, you should use the person specification to inform the way you write your supporting statement.
How to write them
Your supporting statement should have a clear structure based on the criteria provided in the person specification. You should tailor your supporting statement for every job you apply for. Keep these tips in mind:
Follow the order of the criteria in the person specification to create a logical flow to your supporting statement. Use the criteria as subheadings or if the person specification uses numbered headings, you can number your paragraphs accordingly. This will help the recruiter understand how you fit their role requirements clearly.
Explain how and why your skills and experience meet each criteria using specific examples. Avoid talking about your generic skills and instead focus on specific examples, being as succinct as possible. We recommend using the STAR technique.
Where possible and if logical, group similar criteria together to save space and avoid repetition. E.g., can you include an example of when you have demonstrated problem solving and excellent communication skills at the same time?
Quantify your achievements whenever possible. For example, did you score highly for the module your example is from, or did you receive positive feedback from a line manager or customer? Quantified results make your examples more tangible for the reader.
Focus on examples from the most relevant experiences you’ve had, but if needed, draw from your wider experiences and explain how you can transfer these skills into the new role.
Use positive and impactful language, reflecting the job description and company language. Top Tip: check the company website for their business values or mission statement and include how your personal values align to their strategic aims in your supporting statement.
Follow the specified word count if there is one, otherwise aim for 1-2 pages of A4.
Remember to proof-read your statements and ask others to check them too. Book an appointment with a Careers Adviser for detailed feedback and extra support.
Create your statement in a separate word document, once you’re happy with it copy and paste it into the application form. This will help you spot spelling and grammar errors, as well as prevent you from sending your application in before your statement is finished.
Save a copy of your statement to your files so you can familiarise yourself with your key points before an interview.
Remember that these statements are your opportunity to sell yourself, so be positive, use convincing language, and persuade the reader that you are the perfect candidate for the opportunity!