The skill addendum: Why you got one and how to complete it
You’ve met with a recruiter (if not, you really should), thought about your reasons for joining, looked over the job description, completed a health history form and now your placement officer is asking for more information — the skill addendum.
The skill addendum is an important part of your application and should be given its due diligence.
There are several circumstances that may lead your placement officer to ask you for more information:
1. You applied to go anywhere and do anything, and the placement officer who received your application would like to get to know your specific skills a bit more thoroughly than was expressed in your résumé.
2. You applied directly to a position that closely matches your talents and the placement officer is looking to more fully understand your skills.
3. The placement officer is seeking out very specific skill sets, like coastal resource management or maternal and child health experience.
For whatever the reason, your placement officer has determined that they need a bit more information about you and your skills, so use this form as a chance to delve meaningfully into your skill set.
It should be noted that not all candidates will be asked to complete a skill addendum, and they may come at various points in the application process. It is just one of many tools that placement officers use to assess applicants. If you have yet to receive a skill addendum, don’t panic. As many reasons as there are to get a skill addendum request, there are as many reasons why you may not need it.
If asked to complete the form, the best way to approach it is to give an accurate and detailed account of your experiences. Your résumé often only gives a short summary of your experiences, so use the skill addendum to explain in detail what you did. Many applicants list very general experiences on their résumé, such as gardening or tutoring. The skill addendum gives the opportunity to expand upon “tutoring” to show who you taught, how long you worked together and what subjects you covered. The form has fairly generous text allowances, so take time to show the placement officer what experiences you’ve had that make you a competitive applicant for the position.
Many applicants mistakenly try to upsell a very short or very basic experience. Your high school babysitting job, for example, does show work with youth, but probably doesn’t warrant an entry on the form, let alone a three-paragraph response. For less experienced applicants, it can be tempting to overhype or stretch an experience over several skill points. Your week-long alternative spring break may have exposed you to the challenges of doing heath work in a developing country, but it probably did not develop a competitive skill set. Your placement officer will prefer a skill addendum that is honest and accurate and shows areas in which you are genuinely skillful.
Finally, if you receive a skill addendum and you end up having no experience with the skills being covered, don't worry. For applicants willing to go anywhere and do anything, you might get placed in a country where you qualify based on interest or your capacity to learn. If this is the case, use the spaces provided to let your placement officer know that you are interested and able to learn those skills. If you’ve applied directly to your program and don’t have the skills mentioned in job description or the form, you might want to reflect on why you’ve chosen that specific program. While a great motivation to serve is wonderful, having some experience in the required skills is going to make you that much more competitive for the position you want.
In summary, placement officers send skill addenda to understand the depth of your experiences, look for skills not mentioned on your résumé and gauge interest. Take full advantage of the opportunity to shine. If it does help you land an interview, make sure you’re equally prepared for that next step in the process.
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