Making Successful Applications (standard application forms using a personal statement)


Welcome to the follow up blog from the recent Making Successful Applications (standard application forms using a personal statement) workshop, run in our Employability Hub. Remember to look out for and book on to further workshops through the events section in My Careers Centre. Click here to see what other events we have on….

We run a great shortlisting activity, the students are the recruiter. We get details of a current graduate level role, the job description (JD) and the person specification (PS), we make a shortlisting matrix and 2 examples of applications for the position.

Using the shortlisting matrix, the students individually score the applications. We then hold a mediation meeting where we compare scores.

In the most recent session we had discrepancies straight away, some students scored low, some higher on the first point. We debated the scores and agreed on a final score for each of the criteria for both applicants.

Highlighting the discrepancies throughout the process led to a discussion about subjectivity within the shortlisting process. Even though everyone who was shortlisting had the same job description and person specification, the same criteria, matrix and scoring key, we had different scores for a lot of the criteria, different people had a different point of view.

As group we decided that this subjectivity is natural and having a mediation process allows for a fairer recruitment process and allows for challenge of unconscious bias. We also discussed that we cannot predict how strict or lenient a potential recruitment team will be with their shortlisting. From this we decided that we should consider things we do know.

We identified:

The recruiter has a particular purpose, aim or objective for the post. Normally found in the job description (JD).

As much as you can, you need to find out and understand what the job is and what its purpose is.


Looking on the company’s website, learning about their mission and values, reading case studies of employee’s, the annual reports and strategy documents can all help you gain a sound understanding of the purpose and direction of an organisation or service. You could also look up the company on Glassdoor this is a website which is similar to TripAdvisor but reviews employers.

For many different reasons (we don’t have the space to discuss in this blog), when making an application you do not always know the name of the company you are applying for or have a detailed job description or person specification to help you to tailor your application. In these cases we suggest you research the sector. To help with that we have My Careers Centre, here are links to the relevant resources:

Industry Reports gives you a detailed report on a number of different sectors

Career insights page provides downloads and a number of links to different resources and publications around many different sectors and jobs.

Employer Advice provides videos from professionals and employers across a whole range of sectors.
The recruiter needs someone to complete a certain set of tasks, and have a certain set of responsibilities. (JD)

In order to be able to complete those tasks and perform those responsibilities the recruiter has identified a set of qualifications, skills, knowledge and experiences which they would like the applicant to have. Normally found in the person specification.

Depending on the recruitment process used, recruiters will seek this information in different ways e.g. Competency/Behavioural questions, a CV, or a standard application form (online, digital or paper based). This session and blog concentrated on the standard application form method using a Personal Statement. Look out on the events page to book on other sessions focusing on the other methods.


You need to breakdown the person specification by copy and pasting all of the selection criteria into a word document.

You can then start providing evidence for each criterion. Key word here being evidence, do not list or merely mention a skill assuming the recruiter will know what you mean. Remember our discussion about subjectivity. Sometimes you may have been lucky when applying for jobs in the past and successfully been selected for interview by not clearly evidencing your skills. This will not always be the case. You need to control your own luck and demonstrate that you have used a particular skill to achieve a particular outcome, ideally in a relevant context or the next best option is in a transferable context. As with our activity the recruiter will most probably be scoring you against their criteria. If not formally using a matrix on a spreadsheet, they will be informally in a matrix within their mind. So you need to help them find the relevant information in your statement and provide enough evidence to score as highly as you can.

Sometimes you end up grouping the criteria into different paragraphs as you realise you can edit certain paragraphs to demonstrate a number of different skills.

Simple summary:

Find out what the purpose of the role is,

Use the person specification criteria to inform the points you make in your statement,

Evidence and demonstrate how you have applied skills to achieve outcomes,

It is up to you how you present the statement, some people remove the criteria headings and then make the statement read nice with a start, middle and end others keep the headings in. it is up to you.

You will have careers, employability professionals, academics, teachers, tutors, peers, family members etc. provide you with advice on what works best. I say remember that there will always be an element of subjectivity within a recruitment process, there is a load of really good employers who do their best to make sure their process is objective. But we are people and we will act like people. You cannot control or influence forces based on subjectivity. You can influence your own luck, shape your application to the criteria of the job and provide evidence which demonstrates you have what it takes to achieve outcomes within that role.

E-mail for any further careers and employability support.

Chris Biggs

Senior Careers Adviser

Liverpool Hope University



2 Comments on “Making Successful Applications (standard application forms using a personal statement)

  1. Pingback: Job Searching Back to Basics: – Careers and Employability

  2. Pingback: Back to Basics: Application forms – Careers and Employability

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: