Career Planning & Employability

Cover Letter or Supporting Statement?

The world of recruitment is not only fierce, competitive, and a full-time job in itself but a world with, how can I put it, mixed messages and processes?

Many applications now require just a CV and a Cover Letter, which is a nice (maybe nice isn’t the word), straightforward (not straightforward to put in place however when we consider thinking through the content of a CV and cover letter) package that you can either email to the job opportunity or send via a job board. What about when they bring supporting statements into the equation, however?

So, a cover letter – it’s a 1 page; extension of the CV; starts to introduce your character a little more; highlights extra examples to the CV of how your skills and experience are a good fit for the job in question; shows off some research you have done towards the company and role in question…but for one job you are asked to send a cover letter along with your CV to an HR email address, another job asks you to write your cover letter within a small box on the job site, a further job asks you to upload a 4-page cover letter (4 pages?! But I thought cover letters were 1 page only?!), a fourth job advert asks for just an application form to be completed but within this, there is a supporting statement, and a fifth job is asking for a CV and a supporting statement.

Don’t panic!

As a general rule of thumb, a supporting statement will not be a stand-alone document that you will send with a CV. A supporting statement is usually that bit of an application form where it will ask you to evidence how your skills and experiences meet the requirements of the person specification, and you write this in a box provided on the application form. To write a supporting statement, you follow the essential and desirable criteria within the person specification to produce a continuous piece of writing, full of examples, to evidence how you meet each and every point on that person specification. Sometimes there will be a word count/page limit to work towards, other times, there won’t be the instruction of how much to write so in this case, write as succinctly as possible whilst still making sure all points on the person specification are being talked about

A cover letter, as in the third paragraph above, is a 1-page letter, submitted with a CV. Where there is the instruction of writing more than just a page for a cover letter however, this then moves into supporting statement territory but presented as a letter. The 2 pages, 4 pages, however many page instruction, should start to ring alarm bells that comprehensive evidence of skills and experience needs to be provided. Where there is a detailed person specification provided, use this to guide your writing, and say something about all points within it.

Whatever you are asked for however in an application, full instructions are normally given so take the time to seek these out. Where there is an application form to complete, there is normally a booklet to help you complete each section of the application. Always read the application instructions first which will help you work out what is needed!

Written by Laura Doherty

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