A critical aspect of creating an effective CV is writing a personal statement, sometimes called a profile or career summary, that enables the recruiter to quickly identify the strategic value you can add to their organisation. Your CV should be a self-marketing document aimed at persuading the recruiter to interview you – and your personal statement is a critical part of making this happen.
Many candidates struggle with writing the statement but it doesn't have to be a difficult as you may think. A well written statement can be between 50 and 200 words, although it is important not to ramble. Remember you always have your cover letter for interesting and engaging information.
It's important to read the job specification carefully and ensure not only that your skills and experience match but you reflect this in your statement. I am often asked whether a statement should be written in the first or third person and, while there are no definitive rules about this, my preference is always to write in the first person because the CV is all about you and your skillset. This doesn't mean that you have to add "I" at the beginning of each sentence, however. The reader knows it's about you so avoid this type of repetition and keep them engaged in your value and transferable skills.
For example an opening statement without the opening "I" could read:
As a highly-motivated and results orientated manager within the luxury hotel sector, I have a proven track record of providing exemplary levels of service to a broad range of guests, including VIPs and high-profile individuals.
This example reads naturally and flows for the reader, whereas if an "I" was inserted at the start, while not hugely different, it would read more like a list. As you move forward with additional information it then becomes difficult to break out of the format you have started.
As a general rule, it's best to break the statement into three sections:
Who you are
As recent graduate from Durham University, with a 2:1 honours degree in media communications, I have undertaken several internships within leading organisations such as Bertelsmann and Times Warner. These placements have enabled me to develop not only specific media industry experience, but also a valuable and transferable skill set in this fast-paced sector.
The above opening allowes the recruiter to quickly identify where you are coming from, that you have had industry experience (something that may be in the selection criteria) and core transferable skills. This in itself could be enough for your opening statement, but it can be expanded upon by adding some additional information.
What you can bring to the table
During placement with Bertelsmann, I worked in the media division contributing to projects – such as the award-winning China Max Documentary – and managed my own research, liaised with various divisions, formulated media reports and participated in group project meetings. Utilising excellent communication skills, I developed and maintained successful working relationships with both internal and external staff.
Your career aim
Looking to secure a position in a media organisation, where I can bring immediate and strategic value and develop current skillset further.
An example of a poorly written personal statement
Tim is a recent graduate from Durham University with a 2:1 honours degree in media communications. I have undertaken several internships within leading organisations. Tim is now looking to secure a position in a media organisation where I can develop my current skill set.
The mismatch of first and third person is not only confusing to the reader, but it almost sounds like a profile about different people. It also lacks specific detail and proof of what value the candidate could bring to the company.
Key points on writing a dynamic and interesting personal statement:
- • Get straight to the point: avoid lengthy descriptions and make your testimonies punchy and informative.
- • Keep it between 50 to 200 words maximum.
- • If you have enough space, use 1.5 line spacing to make you statement easier to read.
- • Match person and job specifications with well written copy.
- • Read your profile out loud to ensure it reads naturally.
- • Don't mix first and third person sentences.
Other essential resources
•Three excellent cover letter examples
•CV templates: graduates, career changers and ladder climbers
•What questions to ask at the end of your interview
•How to write a CV when you lack direct work experience
Elizabeth Bacchus is a consultant and founder of The Successful CV Company.
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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.
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