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How to write a supporting statement for a job application

December 1, 2019
By Sarah Blunt

When it comes to finding the right candidate, not all employers favour the traditional CV and cover letter - some prefer to read a supporting statement. The good news is that this doesn't require any fancy formatting, but the fact you can’t rely on looks means you have to nail the content. In this post I’ll talk you through how to write a supporting statement for a job application so you stand out from the competition.

What is a supporting statement?

A supporting or personal statement is used to outline your suitability for a particular role and is your chance to speak directly to the employer’s wants and needs. Although any employer can request one, supporting statements are particularly common in the education and non-profit/charity sectors. One of the biggest employers in the UK, the NHS, requests applicants complete a supporting information section on their online application - this is exactly the same as a supporting statement.

How to write a supporting statement for a job application

Step 1: Identify what the employer wants

Most employers will ask you to evidence your suitability for the role in the supporting statement, but others may want you to explain your motivation for applying too. Be clear on what the employer wants before writing your statement so you can be sure you're hitting the brief.

You also need to know what competencies the employer is looking for from their ideal candidate. This information is usually found in the job description (it's often labelled 'Person Specification), but it may appear in the job advert itself. Look for phrases like ‘We are looking for someone with…’ or ‘Our ideal candidate will have….’; whatever follows this is what you need to focus on evidencing.

If the employer has set a word limit, make sure you stick to it. If they haven’t, read my blog post How long should a supporting statement be? to find out how much to write.

Step 2: Decide on a structure

It’s entirely up to you how you structure your supporting statement, but there’s a structure I find works really well that I recommend to clients during my supporting statement review service - structure it around the competencies listed in the person specification. If the employer lists around five to eight competencies, this would be perfectly manageable to structure your supporting statement around, but any more and I'd recommend grouping them. To do this, group competencies that relate to one-another or are similar. For example, you could group IT skills, administration and organisation skills or interpersonal, customer-service and listening skills.

Want to see an example of a well-structured and written supporting statement? Check out my Supporting Statement Pack which includes an interview-winning 900-word example supporting statement.

Another point to consider is the order of your statement, and which competencies will be addressed first. It's a good idea to tackle them in terms of their overall importance for the role. Generally speaking, if you've got relevant experience for the position you're applying for, you should highlight this early on in your statement as it's a big selling factor. If you’re unsure about the best order to address each competency, review the person specification to see if they are grouped into ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’. You may find clues in how frequently the employer has referred to the competencies in the job description too.

If you’ve got limited experience, you may find structuring your statement around each competency a bit tricky. If this is the case, structure your statement around your past roles or experiences. For example, one paragraph for your current job and the second for your last job. You can then use other paragraphs to focus your attention more on certain aspects of these roles.

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Step 3: Select your evidence

Now you need to identify the all-important evidence. Evidence can be a few different things: specific situations or projects you’ve worked on, or roles you’ve held which required the competencies needed for the role. For example, you may refer to a specific project to evidence your organisation skills, but the same project could also be used to evidence your time-management and multi-tasking skills too. The key is to draw on a range of evidence (don't just rely on one role to evidence everything if you can help it), and focus attention on the most relevant and/or recent examples.

Detailed evidence is what your application will depend on so make sure you dedicate a good amount of time to this. I encourage my clients to brainstorm examples they could refer back to in order to evidence each competency.

Step 4: Start writing

Once you’ve decided on your structure and decided what evidence you're going to draw on, it’s time to start writing. To avoid your statement becoming too descriptive, dedicate a paragraph to each competency or group of competencies. This will help your writing stay focused, clear and persuasive.

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Step 5: Write your opening and closing paragraphs

People often struggle with making a start with their supporting statement, and it puts them off writing entirely. This is why I recommend leaving the opening until last. By the time you’ve written a first draft of the main content you’ll know the key points and evidence you want to cover and this will help when you come to writing your opening.

If you can write an opening paragraph which is engaging and grabs the attention of your reader, then great, but don’t worry if you can’t – it’s the main content of your statement that matters most, not the opening line(s). You can always rely on ‘I am writing to apply for position of [role title]’ which is perfectly adequate and won't lose you any marks.

Unless the employer has explicitly stated not to, you could also use this opening to outline what interests you about the opportunity (both the role itself and employer). Address this early on if you can. Pick three reasons why you applied for the opportunity. To do this, go beyond the job advert and description - employers often want to feel like you've chosen them above other companies. For more advice on writing an engaging opening paragraph read How to start a supporting statement.

When it comes to writing a closing paragraph, keep your message short and sweet. Avoid repeating yourself, but if you want to you can provide a summary of your suitability. You can also thank the hiring manager for their time. It's usually in this paragraph where you might outline your availability for interview (should you be away on a specific date).

Writing a good supporting statement is not easy. I've helped 100s of clients write compelling supporting statements that convert to interviews. I can do the same for you. Learn how