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Good Personal Statements For Jobs

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: 

Do’s

  • 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.

Don’t

  • 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.

Example Profiles

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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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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