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Statement Of Qualifications

If you’ve been applying for jobs with the State of California, you’ve probably seen job postings requiring a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ). An SOQ is a way for hiring departments to apply Screening Criteria to help them select the most qualified candidate (or candidates) for a position.

Hiring departments requiring a Statement of Qualifications as part of an application package is becoming more common. What was once reserved for higher level and managerial positions, SOQs are now being required for lower and even entry-level classifications. While it’s true that they can be a lot of work, they don’t have to be mysterious or complicated. This article will help to explain what they are, what their purpose is and, most importantly, how to write one that is awesome.

A Statement of Qualifications can be required for any vacancy. They can also be required for Career Executive Assignments or Exams. Our best advice is to approach the SOQ as a way to get invited for an interview. A good SOQ will get you in the door to an interview and an interview will be the gateway to a job.

What is A Statement of Qualifications?

The California Department of Human Resources describes the Statement of Qualifications as part of the “hiring puzzle.” It is one piece in a set of equally important pieces that when combined create a picture of the most qualified candidate. The hiring system used by the state of California is merit-based. That means departments must hire the candidate that is most qualified for the job. The SOQ is a piece of the puzzle. Hiring departments determine the best candidate - the person with the most merit - for a job but putting the puzzle pieces together.

Continuing with the puzzle analogy, it is best to think of each of the pieces as having equal importance. The hiring puzzle can consist of as few as 2 pieces; an interview and an application. It’s impossible to get a State job without submitting an application, and just about impossible to get a job without an interview.

Usually you'll find that more than just these 2 pieces are necessary to successfully complete the State hiring process and get a job. An SOQ is increasingly being used as a puzzle piece. Sometimes there will be other requirements like a resume or cover letter in place of or in addition to an SOQ. You can find any combination of these 5 pieces required to apply for vacancies. Sometimes you might find all 5 are required to be considered, especially the more advanced you are in your career.

A Statement of Qualifications, resume, cover letter (or any combination of these documents) are generally means to serve the same purpose, which is to use criteria to “screen out” or “screen in” applicants for a job. That means they are used to separate the most qualified (screen in) from the under-qualified (screen out). For the pool of candidates that are screened in, an interview usually follows as the final piece of the hiring process.

What Are screening criteria?

Screening criteria are required and/or desirable qualifications. They are the knowledge, skills and ability that is needed to do the job. These qualifications are above the minimum qualifications of a classification, which are the base level requirements a candidate needs to possess to be legally eligible to be appointed to a position. Hiring departments first create a duty statement and a list of the desirable and required qualifications. The screening criteria that will be used is then established. This is all done before the job is posted.

An SOQ is important. It is the opportunity for a candidate to demonstrate that they meet the screening criteria set forth by the hiring department. The screening criteria are certain required and desirable qualifications, or the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience needed to do the job. Candidates write the Statement of Qualifications to show readers (screeners) that they have these abilities and meet or surpass the screening criteria.

Sometimes the mysterious part of writing an SOQ is figuring out what it is a hiring department is looking for in a potential hire and knowing what to write about. The job bulletin should give an applicant clear instruction on what it is that they want in a candidate, and what applicants should write about. Again, a Statement of Qualifications is used by departments to rate candidates based on screening criteria.

There could be hundreds of applicants that meet the minimum qualifications for a job vacancy, especially in some of the more common State classifications. The screening criteria helps hiring managers narrow down who is the most qualified. The most likely way a hiring department will approach this is to narrow the candidate pool down to the most qualified, then make a hiring decision based on another factor, like an interview.

Screening criteria is numerical, and it is applied equally to all applicants. Applicants are given a score for their experience as it relates to each qualification. The score is determined by reading a statement of qualifications.

How to Write a Statement of Qualifications

When writing the SOQ, more is not better. The hiring manager won’t be spending a lot of time reading it, and quickly and concisely addressing the qualifications is the best approach. Make it easy on the screening panel to quickly identify you as one of the most qualified candidates. Organization of your SOQ is important for similar reasons. A reader should be able to quickly read over a SOQ and pick out the key information they need, which is how you meet the required and desirable qualifications.

Qualifications should indicate an example and an outcome. If the skill is coordinating events, don’t just say you “organized an event.” You’ll want to indicate that you organized a job fair that exceeded attendance expectations and hiring goals. Expand on simply saying you have experience doing a certain task. Give a specific example and describe the outcome.

Candidates should not just write a narrative of what is discussed in their State Application (STD 678). Each are separate documents. You State Application should be a list of specific tasks and duties performed. It can be thought of as the legal document that shows you meet the minimum requirements to be appointed to a position. A SOQ is not a rehashing of the information listed here. If your State Application is the document that proves you are a possible candidate for a position, your Statement of Qualifications is how you should that you are the best possible candidate for a position. Again, in your SOQ you are addressing how you satisfy the desirable qualifications for a position.

Similarly, don’t reference your resume in your Statement of Qualifications or your application. Treat all documents as completely separate and keep overlapping information to a minimum. Never put “see application” in a SOQ or on a resume. Don't refer to any of these documents in an interview, either.

A Statement of Qualifications isn’t a guessing game. The job bulletin and duty statement should make it clear what hiring managers are looking for. The bulletin should give clear instructions on what should be discussed in your SOQ. If instructions are lacking or unclear, you can assume that you are supposed to address the required and/or desirable qualifications, which should be listed. If they are lacking, address the duties outlined in the duty statement.

Most people have more experience than they know. Considering non-traditional work experience is also important and is great think about when writing a SOQ. Working as a volunteer, having a personal side business and internships are all work experience that should be drawn on and included into an SOQ if they are relevant to the position. Part-time accounting work for your husband’s business or your work as an unpaid event organizer for your church are examples of non-traditional work experience that might elevate you from being “qualified” to the “most qualified.”

If you don’t have all the desirable qualifications, you should still apply. But a good, general rule is that you’ll need to have met at least half of the qualifications to given serious consideration. Keep in mind that there is probably not a perfect candidate. Desirable qualifications are a way for a hiring department to outline what their most ideal candidate might look like. That doesn’t necessarily mean that person exists.

Also, be honest and accurate in your Statement of Qualifications. If a desired qualification is 2 years of event organizing experience, but you only have one and a half, say so. If you’re a strong candidate, lacking 6 months of experience in just one of a handful of qualifications probably won’t make a difference. But, misrepresenting or exaggerating your experience is a good way to get disqualified.

Be prepared by creating a “bank” of your work experience and accomplishments. By doing this, you’ll have the raw information ready to go that you can craft into a Statement of Qualifications. Remember, a SOQ should be unique and tailored to the specific job you are applying for. Having a list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities you’ve acquired over the years will make it easier when a great opportunity requires you to submit a SOQ. Having a general SOQ already written that you can tweak and expand upon is another time-saver. The final product will be much better if you aren’t rushing to get it finished by the final filing date.

How to Format a Statement of Qualifications

A SOQ should have formatting requirements outlined in the job bulletin. They should include font, margins, and page limitations. If no specific formatting instructions are given, use Helvetica or Arial 12-point font with normal margins. No fancy or large fonts. In fact, a lot of job bulletins say that the screener will stop reading at a certain point, regardless of how long it is.

Address each of the required and desirable qualifications with equal space and time. Applicants should assume when they are writing the statement that each of the qualifications listed is off equal weight. Qualifications aren’t listed in order of importance. Don’t spend half a page on one qualification, then just give a sentence or two worth of space to another.

Tips, Tricks and Advice for Writing a Statement of Qualifications

  1. If you do a Statement of Qualifications well, you should be invited to a job interview. Don’t reference your resume, job application, cover letter or SOQ in a job interview. The hiring interview is a distinct part of the “hiring puzzle.”
  2. Use an active voice when writing your SOQ. That means sentences should be in first-person (“I”) form and have strong verbs. Resumes are written in passive voice.
  3. Don’t use acronyms and jargon specific to your department or unit. Don’t assume that the reader knows what they mean.
  4. Grammar, punctuation and spelling all count. Re-read your Statement of Qualifications multiple times before submitting it. Better yet, have a colleague or friend look at it first. A fresh pair of eyes is best when it comes to proofreading.
  5. Don’t add anything to your SOQ that doesn’t add value. Everything that is in your SOQ should have purpose. Cut the clutter to make it easier on the reader. If it doesn’t add value to your candidacy, don’t put it in your SOQ.
  6. You should be uploading your SOQ and submitting it electronically through your CalCareer account. If an SOQ is required, you won't be able to submit your application without it. If you are mailing your package in or dropping it off, make sure you've printed it out and included it.

Thanks for reading!

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  1. Replies
    1. templates would only confuse this process because each duty statement may require different details, in other words one job post may tell you they want a word document, using hevetica font, size 12, single spaced, no more than 1 page... and another job post may want a pdf, double spaced, 1 inch margins, arial font, size 10, no use of bold, italics or underline. Then the post will ask you to answer a series of specific questions that are directed to you experience and education that qualify you for the position and ask you to provide details or how or what you did to achieve these things.
      It can get this specific. So again, a template will not help. Good luck!

    2. You are correct in terms of the content of the questions and answers. Blue you do want to write out each question in the SOC. The person reading it doesn't want to refer back to what the questions were. What I found works best in terms of the answer is to refer with examples to as many of the words in the Minimum Qualifications and Duty Statement.

  2. Yes a template would be helpful.

  3. Thank you for writing this article. It is very instructive. I will use some of your advice and see how it goes, wish me luck!

  4. You really should proofread your copy. I found several errors.

    1. What a slew of grammar errors in this valuable document, that makes so many excellent points including "A fresh pair of eyes is best when it comes to proof reading" -- should be "proofreading." Looks like the author just used speech to text and didn't have time to correct it. Or maybe it's a sample text for candidates to correct as part of their application!

  5. A template would be nice. However, old state veterns said they use to call this a cover sheet. Not a cover letter. But a cover page summary of their desired qualifications.

  6. Thank you for the tips. I would love to see a visual example/template as well.

  7. Awesome! Thank you for the info!

  8. Great Job! Thank you for the insight.
    I will apply it when writting mine.
    I would also appreciate a sample SOQ.

  9. Thank you! This is really helpful!

  10. Extremely helpful - I've not had to write a Statement of Qualifications before - this pointed me in the right direction!

  11. Should these SOQs be written in proper paragraphs or bullet points?

  12. Does anyone have an example; I understand what to place in it. I just need to see the format

  13. It also helps to know somebody. In my 33 yrs of service, the person who knew somebody from within got the job. Happens more often than people think. The friend of a friend, the child of a friend, on and on.

    1. which explains how some of these people in leadership roles actually became supervisors and managers because it wasnt based on skill or talent

  14. Thank you. This is very helpful - I look forward to writing my first SOQ. The CalHR youtube videos are helpful too.

    Thanks again!


  15. Thank you so much for this article, it clarified everything we needed to know. Those that want a template, you are looking for the wrong thing. You need to be creative and write it to where it’s unique to you. And yes, that you tube video from CalHR is also helpful.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. 30 year government employee. (City, County, and State of CA) Statement of Qualification is just stupid. I still say someone went to a convention heard about the Statement of Qualification, danced around for hearing "such a good IDEA!" and said we (HR) should make everyone (including the janitor) turn in a resume, a cover letter, and a Statement of Qualification. Oh and also let's not forget, the application. It's just a bunch of busy work for HR. And as the comment above, after you do all of this useless work, the janitor's brother gets the job.

    1. Thank you for the comment on redundancy. That’s certainly what it feels like. Enter your experience and duties on the application, format same information differently for the resume, then rehash on the SOQ. It’s exhausting! And will I get feedback on my SOQ? IDK. How will I know what to change for next time? :/

    2. I don't mind writing an SOQ for an opportunity, however, I believe that the system is acutely overdue for a modification to provide equal benefits for the institution as well as candidate. Preparing an application, resume, pre-exam studies, certification(s), and SOQ for a position consume a great deal of time, effort, and often money. The advantages lean completely on the side of the institution when the candidate failed to receive proper and constructive assessments as to why they are not being considered. Broad statement such as 'we received many well qualified candidates and decided to move forward with other candidates' is simply insufficient and should be recognized as such. Institutions, especially state agencies, need to take on the ownership of providing necessary and constructive assessments to each candidate after a failed interview. The ability to better understand true reasons from a failed interview helps each candidate makes necessary improvement in preparation for a future interview.

    3. I'm considering just not applying for posistions that ask for an SOQ and only submitting applications that ask for a cover letter.


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