Five Top Tips for Writing a Personal Statement
What is a personal statement?
Many people confuse the personal statement with the cover letter. The personal statement or profile (in other words) is part of your CV and summarises your key skills and experience.
Your statement can help you to stand out quickly from the crowd of hundreds of job applicants. Recruiters typically spend a few seconds reading your statement and they make an assessment on whether to disregard your application or continue reading further.
Writing a convincing statement can take a significant amount of time and effort. The following top tips are designed to help you draft a structured and focused statement, and grab employers’ attention.
#1 - No more than 100 words: You might be tempted to include too much information in your statement. Do remember that you are providing a snapshot of your experience. Before you start drafting it, do think about what your USP (unique selling point) could be. You might find it helpful to visualise hundreds of other applicants all trying to craft their best application. What would make your application stand out? Is it your education? Or your work history? Is it your most recent employer? Or perhaps a volunteering opportunity you have been involved in? Have you worked internationally and do you speak any languages?
When you include one or two unique elements, you will find it easier to keep on track and come across more convincingly to future employers.
#2 - Do not rush: Writing a great statement is deceptively difficult. Most people expect this part to take a short time to draft. You might find that writing your statement is one of the most challenging parts of applying for a job. Since this is the first section recruiters see at the top of your CV, you will need to carefully consider each word you use. Make sure that you create a number of versions and keep polishing these.
#3 - Use the right language: You probably agree that the statement should be in the third person. However, job applicants often make the mistake of switching from third to first-person without realising it. It might feel strange to write in the third person however do try to be consistent.
When we struggle with writing, there is often a temptation to include vague expressions. Some of the most common words include ‘extensive’, ‘always’, ‘might’, ‘really’, ‘very’, ‘seem’, ‘lots of’ etc. These words do not give significant value to the statement and it is wise to avoid these.
A common mistake is writing in long sentences instead of being concise. If spelling is not one of your strengths, do make sure that you ask a friend to proofread your CV. Using a spell check application does not eliminate all spelling and punctuation issues. Some job applicants include a story instead of a factual summary of their experience. Although storytelling can be a helpful skill, you should avoid a storytelling format.
#4 - Make it bespoke: The best statements are brief, clear and specific. Recruiters will notice straight away if your statement is generalised and is not tailored to the job you are applying to. You might find it helpful to create a template statement and make it bespoke to the vacancy.
Try to use numbers to make your draft more specific:
‘A graduate professional with over 10 years experience in the UK education sector.’
‘A business administrator with 3 years experience in the not-for-profit sector.’
#5 - Align with the job criteria: Gillian has worked in academic administration in the South of England. She has recently seen a fabulous job advertised in her local area and decided to apply. She has used a generalised personal statement in her CV which she has found online. She has provided a broad and generalised summary. I suggested that she should look at the job criteria carefully, and capture specifically how she met those.
The recruiting company asked for at least three years of line management experience. I advised Gillian that she refers to her experience using more specific language: e.g. ‘Provided line management to individuals since 2017.’
Another criteria included high-level competency in using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases. Instead of being confident using computers, I asked Gillian to indicate which specific CRM software she has managed and for how long.
Before you get started, you might want to list 5-7 bullet points with your key skills. As an example, you could use any of the below:
‘Experience of using MS Office, including MS PowerPoint’
‘5 years of managing budgets’
‘Coaching over 20 individuals in recent years'
‘Demonstrates excellent organisational and interpersonal skills’
Starting with a bullet point list will help you to keep on track and avoid including irrelevant content.
Writing a personal statement can be challenging for most people. Once you create your own template, however, you will be able to use it for years and customise it for each job application. Good luck with your next job application!