Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Personal Statements for Academic Jobs

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📥  Advice, Applications, For PhDs

I've been reading a few of these of late. Here are some thoughts on suggested structure and content, answers to 'FAQs' on personal statements and thoughts on pitfalls to avoid.

Before you start

It's very tempting to jump in straight away and start writing the statement, especially if the role is precisely in your research field, at your dream university and the deadline is midnight tonight. However, it's really important before you start writing the statement to do thorough research into the Department/Faculty/research group and university you are applying to. Academic job descriptions can vary widely in how much information they give about the precise content of the job. If anything seems unclear or you feel you would like more information, do make use of the commonly-given opportunity to contact the recruiting manager (usually the Head of Department). This will give you the opportunity to find out more about the teaching/research responsibilities of the role and give you the opportunity to make contact and demonstrate your enthusiasm before you even apply. Setting up email alerts from sites such as will help avoid a situation where you see an advert for your dream lectureship six hours before the application deadline.

Read any instructions carefully; for some positions clear instructions will be given about what to include in the personal statement, so do make sure you follow these. Read the job description and person specification carefully and think about examples from your experience to show that you meet these criteria.

Putting the statement together

Your statement needs to be consistently tailored to the particular post you are applying for. Realistically you may be taking material you have used from previous applications, but it's vital to reorganise it and rewrite it for the current application. It will be obvious if you have simply cut and pasted generic material.

What to include:

- A brief opening statement including information about who you are and what your current role is. Including a key achievement in relation to the role you are applying for can work well here.

- your reasons why you are applying for this particular job. If you are applying as an internal candidate or to a department where people know you well already, don't assume these will be obvious. You need to give clear reasons to demonstrate your interest; the research you have done into the role, department and institution will be helpful with this

- evidence of how your research interests fit with those of the department. Do your research into the profiles of existing staff members and think about who you could collaborate with and the unique contribution you would make. This type of information could be included in your reasons for applying.

- clear evidence and examples to show how you meet the criteria on the person specification. It's not enough to simply say 'I have excellent presentation skills'; how can you demonstrate this? In terms of structure, you may want to avoid listing each of the criteria individually as this can be tedious; think about grouping similar criteria together, or structuring your statement according to research, teaching, and administration, depending on the focus of the job. Try and use the language and phrases given in the person specification where you can; this will make it easier for a busy academic recruiter to see quickly that you have the required skills and experience.

- Information about your future research plans, including clear goals and potential funding sources. This doesn't need to be hugely detailed and lengthy, particularly as many jobs will ask for a separate statement of research interests, but it does need to be there. Link your goals with the research strategy/goals of the department you are applying to wherever possible.


- proof-read your statement carefully and check for grammatical and spelling errors and typos. If you are like me you will need to proof-read a hard copy as well as an onscreen version

- save a copy of your statement to refer to if you are shortlisted

- be positive about your achievements and future potential

- get feedback on your statement from academic colleagues. You can also get feedback from the Researcher Career Development Adviser.

- upload a copy of your CV including lists of publications and conference presentations. Check out the advice and CV examples from Vitae.

- keep the statement to two sides of A 4.


- simply repeat all of the detail in your CV, for example lists of publications or modules you have taught; pick out a few key highlights where appropriate

- write in big blocks of text - break the statement down into short paragraphs. Subheadings can work well.

- get drawn into talking at length about your research interests. You will need to mention these, but make sure you focus on research achievements and future goals as well.

- be tempted to use short forms, e.g. 'etc', or say 'see attached CV' rather than provide evidence that you meet a particular criteria





Ability or empathy - what will help your career more?

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📥  Advice, Applications, Interviews, Tips & Hints

I read an article today about some research done for Hay Group, a management consultancy, that had as its main theme the fact that

"70% of graduate respondents say[ing] that in order to succeed in their work they simply need to be good at their job, with half (51%) feeling people skills actually get in the way of getting the job done. Overall, 61% of graduates said they believe technical skills are more important than people skills at work"

Interesting. Very interesting.

What do you think? How important are people skills like empathy? Should it only matter that you are technically good at your job?

Before telling you what employers think, I'm going to get you to have a serious think about this.


A day in the life....

Imagine yourself, asking your lecturer for some advice on a subject you find tricky. They give you a fantastically detailed answer. All fine and great - except that they made you feel a bit rubbish, because they started with 'Well I already explained it, but I suppose if you really need it explained again.....'

You then go for a coffee. My word, you really need it, because you don't feel too great after that lecture. And the server makes you a cappuccino as requested, and it's perfect, handing it over with a still face. No smile.

Next, off to buy a gift for your father. Fathers can be tricky to buy for, so you ask the assistant in the bookshop (he loves books) for a bit of advice. He has a chat with you about what your Dad likes - and doesn't seem to mind when you only have a vague idea that he kind of likes thriller books but you can't really remember. You leave with a book you hope he will like - and the promise you can exchange it at a branch local to your Dad if necessary.

How would those three encounters have made you feel?

All three of the people you interacted with knew their stuff. Great technical abilities. You got the thing you needed. But which one made you feel OK about asking? And more likely to go back there?


Yes, that is a very generalistic example. But hopefully it illustrates the importance of people skills. Demonstrated well, they make the people around them feel better. And people that feel better, and valued, work better.


Still feel that technical abilities are more important than people skills?


The employers' perspective

You might like to know what employers think. In the same article, they felt very strongly about this issue. In fact,

"91% of graduate recruiters believe employees who do not develop good people skills will be ineffective future leaders"


"The majority (89%) of graduate recruiters said they believe poor people skills stifle graduates’ progression"


Sadly, these graduate employers also felt that many of today's graduates don't have enough people skills for them:

"More than three-quarters of graduate recruiters say they have had to employ graduates without the right people skills due to a lack of choice"


Help is at hand

Now, we know you. We know you to be charming individuals, with lovely people skills. So the problem must be in how you demonstrate them during the recruitment process.

If you'd like a little help in articulating your empathy, or talking about how you would go the extra mile to help a colleague, or what good customer service means to you, then please ask us for advice. We'd be only too pleased to help you.

We're open every day during the vacation, and appointments are bookable online for our Quick Query service. And for those of you further afield, we can speak to you by phone or Skype - call us on 01225 386009 to arrange an appointment.


And, of course, if you would like to see more about the  Hay Group’s research, it is available online.


Employers spend 8.8 seconds looking at CV's


📥  Advice, Applications, Tips & Hints

Employers sifting through applications is likened to swiping through Tinder as research shows people spend 8.8 seconds looking at a CV. So how do you ensure your CV grabs an employers attention?

  • Get the look right: choose the right font and make sure it is the right size! Use 14 font for your name and 11 font for the rest of your CV. Use Ariel or another clear font style (Times New Roman works) – most importantly, remember your CV needs to be accessible to the reader.
  • Use visual aids: bullet points, line breaks, bold formatting and tabs. These are all simple tools you use to make an impact.
  • Avoid ready made templates: CV's are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your personality and individuality to an employer. Where possible add a personal touch to your CV so you stand out from the competition. Please note, some employers specify specific templates, if this is the case then do as the employer asks!
  • Length matters: an employer potentially has another 99 CV's to look through. If your CV is too long, you'll loose the employer - the general rule is no more than two pages. However in some sectors such as Banking and Management Consulting, recruiters expect a 1-page CV.  Remember, a CV that is too short immediately suggests that you don't have enough experience, which could potentially put you out of the race.
  • Its all about consistency: make sure you are consistent in the use of bullet points, the font size and spacing on your CV. This projects professionalism and conveys strong attention to detail skills.

Make sure your CV doesn't end up in the reject pile, book a quick query with one of our careers advisers for constructive feedback. We are open throughout the summer holidays.