Posted on: June 7, 2017
As the first opportunity to market yourself, a good personal statement will win the attention of a recruiter. This article will provide some valuable tips and examples.
Although only a small paragraph at the beginning of your CV, it’s essentially your ‘elevator pitch’ – and an opportunity to sell yourself to the reader, like you might do if you came across somebody who could give you a job in person. You want it to hook a recruiter’s attention, persuade them that your CV is valuable and relevant to the role, and keep them reading.
In many ways, your personal statement is a piece of self-marketing. It’s a few sentences that highlight who you are, your skills, strengths, and career goals. The CV is there to tell your employment history and achievements, but the personal statement is a good chance to reveal a little bit of your personality.
You might decide not to have it if you’ve included this type of information in a cover letter, but if you consider a CV to be the story of your working life so far, the personal statement is a very useful entry-point.
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How to structure your personal statement
A personal statement shouldn’t be any longer than four to six sentences. Any longer than that and you’ll risk losing the attention of a recruiter, who might only take a few seconds to glance over your CV before deciding to read further.
For some, writing a personal statement might come naturally, especially if you already have your elevator pitch prepared for the ‘tell us about yourself’ question in a job interview. For others, this might not come so naturally, so here is what to include in a personal statement:
- Sketch out the main skills and experiences that are relevant to the job or jobs you’re applying for
- Narrow these into skill highlights you think are particularly important and worthy of mention
- Craft sentences that flow logically and tell a story. Try and make it descriptive enough to let a reader know you as a person, rather than as a series of work statements
- Take your time. Even for a natural writer, it can be difficult to create a concise and effective summary of your skills, expertise and experience
- Consider writing the personal statement last, as if you’ve been working on your CV you’ll have a much better idea about your overall skills and experience
The general advice for writing a CV also applies to the personal statement – make it specific to the different job roles you apply for. Like CVs, the personal statement might need changing or tweaking based on the requirements of the role.
What to avoid in a personal statement
“A dedicated and enthusiastic professional with extensive experience in …. Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate at all levels. Enjoys part of being in a successful team and thrives in challenging working conditions.”
Recruiters are used to reading these types of lines in personal statements, so much so that they’ve become cliché. They’re also problematic as they don’t tell you anything about who you are, or even what you do. They could be made about any type of job.
An example of a good personal statement
A personal statement needs to show a company what a candidate can offer, whether it’s skills or relevant experience. It needs to be tailored to the job role, rather than a generic throwaway statement that could apply to anybody.
James Innes, Chairman of the CV Group and author of the CV Book, says that candidates should think about giving recruiters something different, personal, and more specific.
He gave this personal statement example:
A PRINCE2 qualified Project Manager specialising in leading cross-functional business and technical teams to deliver projects within the retail and finance sectors.
Uses excellent communication skills to elicit customer requirements and develop strong relationships with key stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle.
Demonstrates strong problem-solving capabilities used to mitigate risks and issues, allowing projects to meet deadlines, budgets and objectives.
Innes explained why he felt this worked as a personal statement:
“With just a little more specific detail, the personal statement has been transformed into something much more effective and individual. A recruiter can see that you are qualified and experienced in delivering projects in certain sectors. They know your communication skills have been used effectively and how your ability to solve problems has resulted in successful project delivery.”
In a competitive job market, it’s important to make sure that every area is covered. With a well-written and professional personal statement, you have an opportunity to make your CV stand out from the rest of the pack.
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You have a limited amount of time to make an impact on the reader (no more that 30 seconds to be precise) therefore the effect has to be immediate. A personal statement is usually situated at the top of a cv under your personal information and is one of the first sections of a cv that the reader will come across. There are various formats and types of cv that are useful dependant on the job role or your skill set, however almost all include a personal profile. In addition generally most application forms will also include a personal statement section.
“This is your banner heading summarising your main selling points"
So what should this heading or opening paragraph include?
- A brief overview of who you are and what personal qualities you have to offer.
- Reference to your skills ensuring they are specifically tailored to that of the position
- Outline your areas of expertise and experience
In addition it should entice the reader to want to know more and go on to read the rest of your cv or application form.
How long should a personal statement be?
There is no definitive answer providing the information is relevant and interesting, however generally a profile will consist of between 30 – 60 words. No more than a few short sentences around 5 lines long.
How do we go about writing a personal profile?
- Firstly you should think about compiling a list of descriptive words or phrases that you may wish to use when explaining the above mentioned bullet points.
Some sample words; Approachable, Analysed, Caring, Challenging, Creative, Diplomatic, Experienced, Flexible, Helpful, Influential, Inspiring, Motivated, Organised, Professional.
Some sample skills; Effective listener, Good at motivating others, Training, Writing, Public Speaking, Completing Forms, Cooking, Innovative thinker.
- Your personal profile should be written in third person narrative, as written in first person will appear as only your opinion of yourself.
- Compile a few short sentences combining your pre - selected words and key skills. It is recommend you have two versions of your profile, one which targets a specific job or industry sector and a general multi - purpose version which you can adapt dependant on your requirements. This will also help if you are applying for a range of different jobs.
- You must feel comfortable in explaining and justifying the points included and be mindful of not sounding “too good to be true”.
It is not uncommon to be asked questions in relation to points included within your profile for example;
Q: You state that you are a good problem solver can you provide an example of a problem you have solved and how?
Q: You mention you are an innovative thinker, can you explain an idea that you have suggested that was successful?
- Where possible have someone proof read or help suggest points for you to include as it can sometimes be difficult to write in a positive and descriptive manner about yourself.
To conclude here are some example profiles and important Do’s and Don’ts:
- Set the tone appropriately and word in a positive manner that will help precondition the reader.
- Contain only appropriate and relevant information.
- Keep it within the recommended length or you run the risk of waffling.
- Pigeon hole yourself to one type of person or profession (unless your intention is to achieve one very specific objective).
- Include and information in relation to your life eg, married, single, age, how long you have been unemployed.
- Go over the top, try where possible to keep it simple and do not include anything negative in this opening paragraph.
A responsible, intelligent and experienced retail professional with an extensive background in fashion and children’s wear both in large departments and small boutiques. Highly creative, adaptable and bright individual with an excellent eye for visual detail and design.
A skilled and adaptable Project Manager, with experience in implementing and overseeing change. Has a proven track record of exceeding performance expectations, remaining customer focused and adhering to budgets and timescales. Ability to bring about the fundamental changes needed in response to changing commercial, legislative and financial factors. Strong strategic vision; along with the ability to successfully deliver complex multi-track projects.
An energetic, ambitious individual who has developed a mature and responsible approach to any tasks undertaken. As a Finance graduate who also possesses three years’ managerial experience, now seeks a senior financial management role. Has the ability to organise people and systems in order to achieve objectives and is used to working under pressure and meet strict deadlines.
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