Many job application forms include a large space for candidates to write something about themselves that will convince the employers to take them on. This can be quite daunting: what should you include in your personal statement and, more importantly, what should you NOT include?
What is a personal statement?
In this article, a personal statement refers to a particular type of information needed on an application form. This is required on the application form for teacher training positions and on the UCAS undergraduate and postgraduate application forms. Some CV advisers also recommend including a very small ‘personal statement’ in the heading of a CV. This is rarely found on academic CVs though.
What not to include
It is very important that you tailor each personal statement for the specific job you are applying for. Do not simply copy and paste an old personal statement into your new application.
Also, do not be lazy and simply write ‘see my attached CV/cover letter’. While you may find yourself repeating much of the information contained within those documents, it is important to make an effort to craft something new here.
Although it is often called a ‘personal statement’ this section of an application form does not require you to give ‘personal’ information about things such as your hobbies. While your interests might make you sound like a rounded individual (whether you enjoy the theatre, scuba diving or whatever), employers in a competitive job market do not actually care about such things. They want to know why you are the best person for the job. So unless the form specifically requests you to do so, don’t reveal details of your life outside the world of work
Personal statements written by those hoping to get on an undergraduate or postgraduate course are slightly different, so do not be mislead by the large numbers of websites advertising help with writing personal statements. These are aimed at high school and college students and are less relevant to you as a jobseeker.
How to structure it
It is important not to make a personal statement into a dense, unreadable block of text. You need to write good prose in full sentences and break it up into small paragraphs. Use headings to help guide the reader’s eye to the most important information.
Try to write in a style that makes your statement fresh and slightly different to the formal prose of most of your application materials. You are trying to sell yourself as an attractive personality as well as a professional employee.
Include such things as:
- Events from your education/career to date that make you especially suited to the job (including volunteer work/work experience): it is important to be able to write about these events enthusiastically
- What it is about the job that especially attracts you to it
- The skills/knowledge base you have that is relevant to the job
- What is the unique contribution you can make to the university/company? Check online for their mission statement and refer to that when describing how you can contribute
- Refer directly to the job description using the same language and then relate that to your own experiences
- What are your career aims? You might have to be creative here! Tailor your answer to the job you’re applying for and make it seem as though you are desperate to pursue a career in that area! However, try to make your statement as honest as possible; you want to come across as a real person and not simply parroting what you think the employers want to hear. It is a difficult balance to achieve
And don’t forget!
As with all parts of your application, make sure as many people as possible proofread your personal statement. Nothing says ‘unprofessional’ like a personal statement full of typos or grammar mistakes. Also, while you may think you have expressed yourself very clearly, other readers may be able to highlight sentences or words that are incorrect, irrelevant or could be more clearly expressed. A good personal statement passes through many drafts, so make sure you give enough time to the writing and re-drafting process.
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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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