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.
Image: Adobe Stock
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.
Write a CV that works
6 things that shouldn’t be on your CV
Graduation guide – 5 steps to getting your CV looking good
by Zak Harper in CVs, Applications & Cover Letters
Follow these few steps to dramatically improve the quality of your CV:
- Keep it simple, uncluttered and in an easy-to-read font (on plain white A4 paper).
- Remove any unnecessary details (don't write lines upon lines for your interests).
- Ensure there are no spelling/grammatical errors; ask someone to proof read it.
- Keep your email address professional. We often see addresses, such as 'firstname.lastname@example.org' or 'email@example.com' - this will not help present a professional reflection of you. Consider obtaining a free email account from a provider, such as Gmail and keep job application emails separate from personal email.
- Check your personal / contact details. This sounds obvious, but we often review CVs with missing or incorrect phone numbers.
- Compare your CV against any job specifications / descriptions you have to ensure relevant skills are highlighted.
- Believe it or not, there is no such thing as a perfect CV. Just concentrate on making use of the CV design that suits you best; chronological, functional or a combination of the two.
- If you are sending your CV by post, ensure you use an A4 envelope and do not fold your CV - by the time it gets to its destination it could look a mess.
...but what should my CV include?
- Education details: you don't need to include all your qualifications from 10 years ago. State your most recent qualifications and briefly cover older, less relevant ones.
- Work experience: most recent first and go backwards; unless using a functional CV.
- Key skills/areas of expertise: such as IT skills or languages.
- Extra-curricular activities: (if relevant to job being applied for).
What Should I Leave Out of My CV?
- Photos: in the UK, the only people who should include a photo on their CV are models and actors / actresses. Please note: some other countries do require photos. Contact us if you are unsure as to whether you should use a photo.
- References: these are requested on an application form / later stage of an application.
- Extensive academic information: we often see clients who include every GCSE and grade but have 10 years employment experience. Unless your qualifications are recent, a brief overview is fine.
- Reasons for leaving a job: this sort of information is not needed on a CV and can potentially be looked upon negatively.
- Salary information: again, not needed.
- Unnecessary personal information: date of birth and nationality are fine, but details, such as weight, religion and health are not needed. Only include a this section within your CV if the space is available. Don't sacrifice content in other more important areas to fit this in.
- Industry-specific terminology / jargon: we covered this in CV writing mistakes but thought it deserved another mention.
How do you write a CV personal statement?
A personal statement (often referred to as a personal profile) should be used to showcase what personal skills you offer in a short, punchy paragraph at the start of your CV.
When compiling your personal statement, try to satisfy the requirements stipulated in the people / job specification for which you are applying. We find it is easier to write a personal statement last; you can note down some of your career highlights and key skills while writing the rest of your CV.
Avoid clichéd phrases such as, 'works well in a team or alone', and unquantifiable skills, such as 'good time management skills' as these are seen in 90% of CVs and will only reduce your chances of selection. Your personal statement should be used to demonstrate what makes you different from other candidates.
How Many Pages Should a CV Be?
You've probably been told not to exceed two pages. However, there is no set limit. As a guideline: a one page CV is normally enough for a graduate or someone with a limited career history. A two-three page CV is about average length.
Obviously, the length of your CV depends upon your level and your career history - an executive CV will no doubt be much longer than one for a recent graduate.
Where do I include personal information?
A common mistake to make with your CV is to list all your personal information: height, weight, place of birth etc. These details are irrelevant and will take up much-needed room for other, more relevant information. It is a good idea to include your date of birth, nationality, marital status and whether you hold a driving licence at the bottom of the CV - not at the top!
What's the difference between a CV and résumé?
The term 'CV' comes from the Latin expression curriculum vitae, which means 'the course of life.' A traditional CV is a one page document that summarises an applicant’s employment history, past experience, and credentials. CVs are most often used in the UK, but are also used in the United States as a more inclusive form of a résumé in academic or medical fields. An American CV lists all scholarly credentials, professional employment, published work, and significant accomplishments.
An American résumé resembles a CV in the United Kingdom; it includes the same information and has a similar format. As a rule of thumb, printed resumes are limited to one page while digital resumes can be slightly longer so that all the necessary information is included. A résumé is ultimately a marketing tool that is used to entice employers to offer an interview, not a job.