Civil Service Personal Suitability & Behaviour Statements (2024 Update)

Go to Blog Home | By: Andrew Reed | Updated: 17 January, 2024 | Category: Interview Advice

Personal Statements Civil Service

Learn all about Civil Service Personal Statements, Statements of Suitability & Behaviour Statements.

Looking to get a post in the Civil Service or zoom up the career ladder with a promotion during 2024?

If you have made or are considering making a Civil Service application or to other large employers, you will most likely have come across personal statements, behaviour statements and statements of suitability.

There are three different types of statement you may be asked to submit.

  • Personal Statement
  • Statement of Suitability (SOS)
  • Behaviour Statement

It can be easy to get confused between these three, however, we view a personal statement and statement of suitability (SOS) as largely the same.

A behaviour statement, however, is different as this will relate just to behaviours and usually requires the use of the STAR method when structuring.

In this comprehensive guide, we will show you how to get detailed Civil Service personal statement examples relevant to your level along with 250 word behaviour statements, great for inspiration.

What is a Personal Statement / Statement of Suitability?

A Civil Service personal statement or statement of suitability (SOS) is designed to be a summary, a written addition to your CV or application. It will be used by the recruiter to check your suitability and it will be assessed against the required Civil Service Success Profiles and strengths.

While your CV will detail your career history, experience and qualifications, it does not show who you are as a person. The personal or suitability statement offers you an excellent opportunity to provide more context and to outline why you are ideal for the role.

This text sits alongside your CV and is a great way for you to clearly show how you meet each of the essential criteria for the role and how your skills are relevant.

Why the Civil Service Requests Personal or Suitability Statements

When advertising a position, employers such as the Civil Service provide a job description which will detail the responsibilities, essential criteria and desirable skills. It will also specify the behaviours you will be assessed against.

This combination paints a picture of the perfect candidate for the role,someone they envisage as being an ideal employee in the post. The personal statement is a way for you to expand on your CV and to provide evidence showing that you bring all of these essential criteria.

Used well, your statement is an ideal way to align what you bring with what they need. A well written document will show clearly and instantly how your skills and experience best fit the role.

They help the recruiters check your eligibility and they are a vitally important step in your progress as you must pass this test to get an invite to interview.

How Long Should a Personal or Suitability Statement be?

In our experience, most Civil Service personal or suitability statements are circa 500 – 750 words. For senior posts you may be allowed to write up to 1,250 words and some DWP posts ask for 1,200 words.

While it’s possible to have a request for a personal statement of just 250 words, we find these are more likely to be behaviour statements. Where we have seen a request for a statement of just 250 words, this is usually in the form of  an interview question. For example, here is one from a recent job posting:

Tell us why you have applied for the role and what you hope to gain from the apprenticeship in terms of new learning and skills. (250 words max)

Study the job advert and description and make note of the word count if available. It is vital that you do not go over as this will show poor communication skills and an inability to summarise.

NOTE: Be clear as to the statement they are requesting. Check if it is a personal, suitability or behaviour statement. This will impact on how your structure it and what you include. For example, some Civil Service departments ask specifically that you do not use the STAR method for your personal statement.

How to Deal With Limited Word Count – Example 250 Words

Irrespective of the word count, proper editing of your statement is essential. For example, there may be ten or more essential criteria plus three to five success profile behaviours outlined in the job description. So how can you fit all of this in?

Proper preparation is essential and a top tip is to take the essential criteria and group them under common themes. You may find that your experience and an achievement can be used to address multiple points.

Use headings for your paragraphs and set yourself the discipline of spending only a hundred words on each point for example.

When you have a first draft, you are still likely to have exceeded the word limit – and this is a good thing. Now you have enough material to be discerning. Cross out all the statements that feel weak or unimportant until you are down to the most powerful ideas.

Creating a Personal Statement for Senior Leadership Posts

If going for a Civil Service leadership position, Grade 6 or 7, your statement will require more thought and depth, as you need to communicate your character for the role and your vision for leading others. What are your values in leadership? What do you see as central to the exceptional performance of a team?

Before writing your statement, sit and map out the fundamentals of how you will take on the task. Then, as you write your statement, weave these beliefs into your text and link these directly to specific examples where you have proven their success.

Using Your Personal Statement to Sell Yourself

Do not be afraid to blow your own trumpet in your personal or suitability statement. By that, we do not mean boasting or exaggerating, simply, state your great achievements, describe the behaviours you used to deliver them and highlight the skills and strengths you bring.

In a competitive sector such as this, you need to stand out as being an overall perfect fit for the role. Consequently, everything you write in your supporting statement needs to be tailored to the essential criteria.

Go through the job description and highlight the top 4 or 5 key responsibilities, duties and address each of these separately. Note keywords, that seem to come up time and again and mirror this language in your statement.

Use bullet points and use these as the topics for your paragraphs. Of course, do not just repeat phrases they use but use them as a guide, edit and refocus.

You must be the star of every sentence, if not, then rewrite to make sure every line counts.

8 Top Tips for Civil Service Statements of Suitability and Personal Statements

To make your Civil Service personal or suitability statement really stand out here are some top tips. This guidance applies equally to all Civil Service roles from EO, HEO, SEO and to senior posts.

  • Your statement must reflect your recent and relevant experience, skills and achievements.
  • Avoid the temptation to just use the same statement for each application, instead, tailor it to the role.
  • Address each requirement directly, providing evidence in the form of an achievement, skill, development or experience gained.
  • Describe what you bring, the skills and experience acquired.
  • The statement should include examples of real key achievements, what you have done, what you have delivered and core learnings.
  • Use active, positive language, rather than lots of passive statements.
  • Describe key and specific achievements rather than generalised responsibilities.
  • Finally, ensure your examples reflect the level you are applying for. Very often, examples can be too simple, can fall short and not reflect the complexity required.

Read More: Get instant access to detailed sample personal and suitability statements for your level with InterviewGold. Click here to start.

How to Introduce Yourself in a Personal or Suitability Statement?

As stated, the opening paragraph is going to win or lose the attention of the application panel. It is essential that you introduce yourself effectively as this gives a strong lead in and will hook the reader.

There are two options available to you.

1) Provide a personal profile, stating key information, years of experience, current post, key strengths and what you bring.

2) Focus on reasons for applying, detailing how your skills and experience fit perfectly. Perhaps tell a story of how you decided to be a part of the Civil Service, while outlining key criteria and how this fits with your career path.

Getting this opening sentence right and you are well on your way to success.

Civil Service Personal / Suitability Statement Example Introduction

Here is an example of a strong opening introduction, a brief personal profile that is designed to grab the recruiter’s attention. For example:

I am a highly motivated and experienced finance professional with 8 years’ experience working within local and regional Government posts in England and Northern Ireland.My current role is Finance Analyst within the NHS where I have progressed rapidly during my two-year tenure.

I bring a degree in Economics from Aston University and I am skilled in financial modelling, business planning and team leadership.

I recently delivered a comprehensive business case for a proposed outsourcing opportunity leading to cost savings of £3m and gained proven experience in developing rewarding relationships with internal and external stakeholders resulting in improved working practices and data accuracy.

I am currently looking for a role within the private Healthcare sector.

As you can see that is a short lead-in to the statement that forms a strong, clear introduction. The recruiter knows instantly who the candidate is, their high level experience and why they have applied.

For your statement, you would need to continue and outline your experience, skills, relevant achievements and behaviours. We have a great formula to use within the InterviewGold training called PASS. A super simple way to bring powerful structure to any statement of suitability or personal statement.

In the InterviewGold training you will find sample Civil Service personal and suitability statements plus learn easy formulas to create your own winning statements.

What is a Civil Service Behaviour Statement?

Each role will have a set of behaviours you will assessed against. For example, Delivering at Pace, Managing a Quality Service ad Communicating and Influencing are three of the top required in most roles.

Alongside your CV and / or application form, you may be asked for behaviour statements instead of a personal or suitability statement or in addition to.

Typical Civil Service Behaviour Statement Examples

  • Describe a time when you delivered a exciting piece of work that exceeded the expectations of others. (250 words max)
  • Detail when you showed excellent leadership skills and explain what you learned from the experience. (250 words max)
  • Explain your experiences against the Communicating and Influencing Behaviour (Level 2). (500 Words)

As you can see the request relates to specific behaviours and asks you to provide evidence of your experience with it. They are in effect the same format as competency based or behaviour interview questions.

They may also advise that in the event that there is a high volume of applications, a short sift will be conducted based on a lead behaviour for example, communicating and influencing or delivering at pace. It follows that you must pay particular attention to that statement.

How to Answer Civil Service Behaviour Statements

For these you must use the STAR or IPAR formula. They will be looking for clear evidence of experience in a previous role and your example must be strong, relevant and complex.

You should demonstrate the essential positive behaviours keeping in mind that different roles will favour different behaviours.

Review the job description to get a sense of what these might be and edit your answer so that the required essential ones are shown first.

Throughout your InterviewGold course we teach you all about how to answer these questions. A good starting point is the section on competency behaviours in the Essential Learning module.

Read more: Get instant access to expertly written 250-word behaviour statements in the InterviewGold training.

Get Expert Personal, Suitability and Behaviour Statement Examples in Minutes

Civil service statement of suitability and personal statements

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About the Author |
Experienced interview coach with Anson Reed and co-author of the bestselling interview guide Top Answers to 121 Job Interview Questions. With over 20 years experience of recruiting and leading large teams Andrew is well placed to know just what is required to secure a job offer.