At Oxford HR we read thousands of covering statements for charity, and NGO jobs every year. Most are missed opportunities, ranging from the densely unreadable to the merely forgettable and the dismal and disappointing. Excellent statements are far too rare.
Here are a few tips on how to craft a memorable and compelling statement, which could be the deciding factor in securing that desired job interview:
1. Think about the purpose of the statement. A covering statement should spark the interest of the employer, demonstrate that you are an excellent and highly motivated candidate, and provide evidence that you meet most of the person specification for the particular job. Your statement should complement your CV rather than regurgitate it. A great statement should be memorable, help you stand out from the pack, give a taste of your personality, nail your fit for the job, and make the reader want to meet and work with you.
2. Only apply if you qualify. If you do not have the required basic relevant skills and experience, or at least some good transferable skills, do not apply for that job. An excellent statement will not get you an interview. Save your time and everyone else’s.
3. Read and follow the instructions. If you are given a page limit, then keep to the limit and use the space to demonstrate your motivation and fit. A 2-page maximum means 2 pages. Keep it concise and focused. In some circumstances, one page will be plenty.
4. Show informed enthusiasm. If you are asked to explain why you are interested in the post, then do some research and start with some insightful and positive comments about the organisation and why you want to work for them, in that specific role. Communicate your curiosity, enthusiasm and authentic interest. Remember the people reading your statement also chose to work there.
5. Create some human interest. Tell a short story about how you first came in contact with the organisation, or a personal detail that will intrigue the reader and help them remember you. This could be something you are passionate about or demonstrates your values and achievements. Keep it concise and appropriate. The candidate who swam across Lake Malawi displayed her courage and tenacity, was memorable for the right reasons, and landed the job. Create some hooks that can be followed up in interview.
6. Always think about and help the selectors who have to sift through piles of applications: each candidate has to be evaluated against a specific set of criteria (the person specification). The statement provides an opportunity for you to spell out exactly how you meet those specific criteria in a crisp user-friendly format. Make it easy for the person evaluating your application by using the selection criteria as headings with evidence of your relevant skills and experience.
7. Explain what you can do for the organisation, not what the organisation can do for you. Selectors are less interested in how the post would benefit you and your CV. Instead, focus on what you can bring to the post and how you would add value.
8. Provide evidence rather than assert without proof. Declaring that you are the best candidate will not win you a job. Demonstrate you have a clear understanding of the role requirements and explain your measurable accomplishments (using some numbers), and examples of relevant experience.
9. Use relevant terms and avoid jargon. Take your lead from the Job Description and organisation’s website. Tailor your application to use their vocabulary and key words.
10. Honesty is always the best policy. Never lie. Avoid the temptation to exaggerate your credentials. Generally, employers would prefer that you demonstrate some humility and self-awareness rather than over-selling yourself.
11. Make your statement clear and easy to read, with white space around the edge, bullet points, and simple fonts and formatting. Don’t cram in too much information in dense paragraphs in tiny fonts. Always be reader-friendly.
12. Avoid elementary errors:
- Forgetting to put your name on the statement. (You are not the only candidate).
- Addressing the statement to the wrong organisation or wrong job or wrong person. Be careful about cutting and pasting.
- Using a standard statement or cover letter for every job. The statement is your opportunity to show how you fulfil the criteria for this specific role and employer.
- Spelling mistakes. Always use Spellcheck before you send a document. Many employers will not shortlist (otherwise excellent) candidates who have not corrected their typos.
13. Get a trusted friend to check your statement before you send it. Do you provide convincing proof of your spirit, motivation, and qualification for the role? Would it persuade them to give you an interview?
14. Always put yourself in the place of the employer and think about your application from their perspective.
Good luck and skill in winning your dream job.