Completing job application forms can be a long and boring process, especially if you are applying for several jobs at once. However, it is vital that you use the application form and covering letter to show that you are the ideal person for the job. One way to do this is to match your skills to the ‘person specification’.
What is a ‘person specification’?
This is a document that accompanies a job advertisement. It is produced by the staff members in the department which is hiring, in conjunction with their HR department. The person specification outlines the knowledge and skills that the potential employer is looking for in their ideal candidate. The criteria are divided into two categories: ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’. In some cases, the criteria will be personal attributes, and in others will be specific skills or knowledge that you will be required to demonstrate if you get the job.
What if I don’t meet the criteria?
Unless you can demonstrate experience of every item in the ‘essential’ list, then it is probably not worth applying for the job. Some job advertisements provide the name of an informal contact which you can get in touch with to discover whether your application might be considered. If you believe that you are perfect for the job in every way apart from missing one criterion, contact this person to discuss your potential application.
Proving you can do it:
You cannot simply state that you fulfil the criteria. You must clearly present examples which will illustrate your relevant experience. Take the case of an essential criteria looking for someone who uses innovative teaching methods. The examples given must be specific, clear and precise therefore it is unacceptable to say that ‘I have shown innovative teaching methods during my time working at the University of X’. You should clearly state what these exact teaching methods were, what specific course you taught, and when. In many cases, it will also be appropriate and valuable to demonstrate the results. So, for example, you can show that your innovative teaching methods were effective by giving details of any improvement in attendance, student performance or student feedback on the specific course. Don’t forget that you may have had a chance to demonstrate certain criteria such as leadership or collaborative skills, outside the workplace, in voluntary work or even while undertaking hobbies.
How to present this information:
Increasingly, job applications are assessed on a tick-box system. The hiring committee is time-restricted so therefore is unable to read through the frequent vast amounts of job applications before deciding who to remove from the applicant pool. Therefore, many panels remove any applicants who do not meet all the ‘essential’ criteria. Be creative when presenting your information that proves you do match these criteria. Using bullet points, underlining or bold letters is a way of attracting the reader’s eye to the relevant parts of your application. Working through each of the criteria in turn may seem formulaic and mechanical, but it will ensure that every box is ticked, and you secure an interview.
We hope our tips on how to match your skills to the person specification prove useful. Further jobseeking tips are available here.