Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

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dk200300
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Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by dk200300 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:32 pm

This is a question for anyone who has seen a difference between their successful and unsuccessful applications for AP posts, or has been told via feedback or is indeed part of a shortlisting process.

Are there any things you shouldn't do when applying or anything thats different between a private and NHS post? There could be something that a lot of us don't realise we're doing wrong!

Im currently trying to apply to some private AP positions just to get my foot in the door. It's really hard as I can't move house either. Im wondering if there's any particular wording that should be avoided or certain aspects that shouldn't be mentioned!

Thank you.

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BlueCat
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by BlueCat » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:35 pm

Well, the big turn off for most if not all psychologists is labelling rather than personing.

Turn off phrasing would include:

I have worked with personality disorders

I have worked with personality disordered people/patients/clients

You haven't, you have "worked with people with a diagnosis of a personality disorder". People first, presenting difficulty second.
There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Billy Connolly.

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ell
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by ell » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:49 pm

The turn-off that I hear a lot from shortlisters is when someone leads with a sentence about how the applied-for post would be ideal for them to progress in their clinical psychology career.

Also, when you don't mention the client group at all, or don't at least make one point about why you want to work with that client group.

Also, saying you can do things that, at an AP level, you would not be trained or competent to do. e.g. "I have delivered family therapy using a systemic framework", when in fact you supported a family through a difficult time, and discussed some systemic ideas in supervision which helped you in your understanding of how best to avoid being drawn into arguments between family members.

Poor spelling/grammar/punctuation. It's obvious, but more common than you think. I have read multiple clinical and AP applications that have had many raging errors, and I just think, how do people think that is going to work?

hearspeaklisten
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by hearspeaklisten » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:11 pm

Another I have heard mentioned a lot is when people are describing a point they match in the job description but don't provide examples.

E.g. If the person spec asked for 'an ability to communicate information in a sensitive way to clients and their families' - don't just write 'I have communicated information sensitively to clients I have worked with.' Give a concrete example of a time when you have used this skill - something that will evidence your ability to do this.

astra
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by astra » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:50 pm

I am turned off by applications where the person lists what they did, but then doesn't reflect on that to show some learning.
So "I've carried out psychometric assessments under supervision; interviewed clients for a research project; audited patient records" vs "I used supervision to improve my understanding of the relative merits of psychometric assessment, individual interview and audit in a research context" which you could then expand on with some specific learning points if there was space. With good communication skills, you should be able to convey this in about the same number of words. Another massive turnoff for me is someone telling me they have simply marvellous communication skills whilst simultaneously leaving all their typos and grammatical errors there for me to see!
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

astra
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by astra » Fri Jan 06, 2017 4:47 pm

Oh and be careful of acronyms! I know it's tempting to use them and some are pretty unambiguous in our field - e.g. NHS, CBT. But many are either very specific to a specific field, or could be mistaken (BPD - Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder? I've seen it used for both and could be confusing). My particular gripe with this is names of neuro-assessments as people would just list a load of meaningless (to me) acronyms and say they had experience of them. I'd be much more interested in their views on neuro-testing and psychometrics more generally, or what they'd learnt about the client group they'd been working with.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

dk200300
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by dk200300 » Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:23 pm

These are really useful, thank you. Is there a specific format for writing personal statements?

astra
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by astra » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:51 pm

Have a really good look at the person spec and job description and think how best to convey everything they are asking for in the amount of space available. There is no one right way.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

jyddx
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by jyddx » Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:56 pm

dk200300 wrote:These are really useful, thank you. Is there a specific format for writing personal statements?
I've found for NHS job apps it's worked best to just roll through the person spec demonstrating how you meet the criteria with examples. It always feels a bit clunky to me and that it would read better if it were less obviously ticking off the person spec, but I reckon it helps to make things super transparent to the shortlister :) you can often roll several person spec into one though - e.g. excellent verbal communication skills and interpersonal skills can be demonstrated with the same example; research skills and good written skills, etc. This will save you on words :)

dk200300
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by dk200300 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:00 am

jyddx wrote:
dk200300 wrote:These are really useful, thank you. Is there a specific format for writing personal statements?
I've found for NHS job apps it's worked best to just roll through the person spec demonstrating how you meet the criteria with examples. It always feels a bit clunky to me and that it would read better if it were less obviously ticking off the person spec, but I reckon it helps to make things super transparent to the shortlister :) you can often roll several person spec into one though - e.g. excellent verbal communication skills and interpersonal skills can be demonstrated with the same example; research skills and good written skills, etc. This will save you on words :)
Thank you. This is useful information! I wasn't sure whether it was better to read as a personal statement. Yet this makes sense.

dk200300
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by dk200300 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:06 am

Also would this be the best approach for pwp jobs too?

Charlie
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by Charlie » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:58 pm

I think this is all great advice, regardless of the position and organisation. If there is a person spec, shortlisters will be marking you against this.

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ell
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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by ell » Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:07 am

dk200300 wrote:These are really useful, thank you. Is there a specific format for writing personal statements?
Part of an AP's role can often be writing reports/letters/complex emails. In fact, excellent written communication skills are on the person description. If someone rose to the challenge of writing a personal statement in a clear and coherent way, showing how they met all the criteria, then I'd probably be more inclined to want to shortlist and interview them. Assuming they meet the criteria, as of course that is what applications are marked against. Yes, it can be tricky (speaking from way too much experience!), but so is an AP post (again, speaking from way too much experience!).

Good luck with your applications!

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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by queenB » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:59 am

jyddx wrote:
dk200300 wrote:These are really useful, thank you. Is there a specific format for writing personal statements?
I've found for NHS job apps it's worked best to just roll through the person spec demonstrating how you meet the criteria with examples. It always feels a bit clunky to me and that it would read better if it were less obviously ticking off the person spec, but I reckon it helps to make things super transparent to the shortlister :) you can often roll several person spec into one though - e.g. excellent verbal communication skills and interpersonal skills can be demonstrated with the same example; research skills and good written skills, etc. This will save you on words :)
From my experience, I can agree to everything of this except for the part about combining several person spec (PS) into one. For NHS applications, I think it is really helpful to always have the shortlister in mind when writing your statement, who often spends no more than about 2-5 minutes/statement to filter out the first big lot. So what you want to do is make it as easy for them as you can to judge whether you meet the criteria. Subsequently, for me what's done the magic, is to RIGIDLY stick to the order in which the criteria appear in the PS and address every one of them with a concise example/reflective argument. That way you present your information in a way that is easiest for the shortlister to link to the PS.
Before, I was aware that you should run your arguments in a similar order as the criteria in the PS, but only recently I realised how important it is to stick to EXACTLY that order and not combine arguments or shift the order where it may appear more sensefully you. I also recently stopped to combine several points into one argument, and even if it's silly things such as 'computer literacy' and 'SPSS skills' and 'experience with databases' appearing separately at completely different spots in my application, I would just leave it, as long as it resembled the order of the criteria in the PS. In the end my supporting statement at first sight would look really fragmented because of the multiple short paragraphs addressing a single criteria at a time, but after I changed to this I would suddenly start to get interview invitations and was given excellent feedback for my written communication style.

What may also help is that, while of course trying to stay as concise as you can, don't be afraid to max out given word number. I was always afraid that with about 1400 words my supporting statement could only be too long and that no one would ever read all of it if I left it that way. But I soon realised that, if there is a high number of criteria to be met, it is better to have every point in your statement well elaborated, than to lose information value because you try to cut down to size.
With that in mind, I do have to stress the importance of conciseness. It helps to read out every one of your arguments and think: How can I present this information in the most simple, easy way, so it immediately comes across to the shortlister? Wherever you can swap impressive, complicated wording for simple, easy language, do! Good written communication doesn't mean winning an award for impressive prose, it means bringing information accross in the most simple, concise way possible.

It took me about half a year to figure out how important these things are. Hopefully I can help you save a little time ;)

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Re: Any advice on what NOT to write, any turn off phrasing?

Post by nightowl » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:49 pm

I think this is a tricky one - and I don't think it's back and white. Some shortlisters will prefer a supporting statement that is easy to follow, allowing them to tick off the person specification sentence by sentence as they move down - other's will prefer a coherent essay with ideas grouped together - other's will prefer a reflective piece that demonstrates your personality - I think generally it's across between the first two - but you never know which one the person who reads your application will be! (i.e. to an extent it's luck).

I've tried a range, but the only noticeable difference I found was that when my supporting statement was shorter (600-800 words) I got shortlisted more, compared to when they were longer (800-1100 words) (People do ALWAYS say the shorter the better!). I've also found that the more relevant my experience is to the job i'm applying to, the shorter my statement. People often comment that writing a supporting statement in 600-700 words is hard, but I think the more relevant the experience, the easier it is to be concise as it evidently meets the person specification point as you can just say "I have done X and hence have experience of doing X" or "I have x skills as during job Y I did Z" (although I do add in a couple of concise reflective points too). I think generally being concise is more important than following them in the same order.

Hence - in terms of what NOT to write - Stay away from long paragraphs or essays - If you are having to use a couple of sentences to explain why a specific thing you've done meets point X, that thing you did probably doesn't meet point X.

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