• Jo

How to...craft the perfect personal statement

Personal statement, professional statement, personal profile, professional profile, career statement, career objectives, personal summary, professional summary – there are many variations of the title for that first,eye-catching (sometimes in all the wrong ways) paragraph at the top of your CV. I’m going to try to stick to one version throughout this post but I may refer to it differently across my blog in general. 

Photo by Kerin Gedge on Unsplash

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge advocate of including a personal statement unless you are unable to send an accompanying cover letter, as it can take up precious space otherwise useful for telling the recruiter about your actual proven skills and experiences. The personal statement is, let’s face it, a summarised opinion of yourself and the proof is in the pudding, as they say! Having said that, including a personal statement can be useful for filling space on a CV if you don’t have much work experience or if you aren’t required to provide a cover letter, so it’s handy to know how to write one just in case.

The most important thing is that your personal statement needs to grab the recruiter’s attention (in the right ways) and make them want to continue reading your CV. It needs to cover who you are and why you’re perfect for the role, in a tailored, professional and concise way – three to six lines should be enough. If it’s generic, poorly structured and/or verbose, it’s likely the recruiter will assume your overall application mirrors this and a rejection will soon follow.

If you read my blog post on how to create a sensational CV, you will know that a CV should be all about your achievements and the personal statement is no exception. You just need to make sure you can then provide more context and proof of your achievements within the details of your roles. For instance, don’t declare something as bold as ‘created award-winning campaigns’ and then leave the recruiter wondering what these are – provide more information under the relevant job role. Just make sure they are relevant to the work you did, or they have no business being in your personal statement, or on your CV for that matter. Likewise, on the ‘softer skills’ side, don’t include something about attention to detail or communication skills and then leave a trail of spelling errors in your document – it's an absolute classic!

It's good to start with defining who/what you are but make sure it fits the role you’re applying for, and make it engaging. Let’s assume the organisation you’re applying to is seeking a social media manager who has supervisory experience and has worked within the technology industry. Rather than ‘hard-working, professional team leader with ten years’ experience in social media management’, which is rather generic (and I'm sure I’ve heard it somewhere before), you’re a ‘successful social media manager, leading a team of three experts to drive revenue for technology clients through award-winning campaigns’. Not only does this say who/what you are but also gives the recruiter a hint that you’re rather good at it.

You should also address why you’re perfect for the role and what value you can bring to it. Take another look at the job description, pick out the key skills and values that are required and include these in your personal statement, as long as they’re relevant to you – remember, anything you include will need to be backed up later in your CV. If a specific qualification is a requirement, state here if you have it eg. PRINCE2 qualified project manager. Likewise, any specific industry knowledge that’s required eg. PRINCE2 qualified project manager specialising in environmental and sustainability strategies. You may need a minimum number of years’ experience eg. PRINCE2 qualified project manager with over 10 years’ experience specialising in environmental and sustainability strategies. Make it easy for the recruiter to see this required information quickly as it will give you the advantage over someone who buries it much further down their CV. You can then go on to talk about other qualities you can bring to the role such as your experience with facilitating sustainability workshops, or your understanding of the legislative effects on businesses' performance, but ensure everything is described in a positive way using phrases such as ‘proven track record of...’, ‘highly skilled in...’ and ‘demonstrable results in...’.

From a personality perspective, the employer will also be looking for someone who fits the profile so if you’re able to address these in your personal statement, you’ll be helping them to quickly see how perfect you are for the role. For instance, the role seeks someone who is driven. You could address this briefly in your personal statement by showing how you have the experience that meets this requirement eg. Strong networking skills led to increased client leads resulting in 33% boost in new business for [company name]. Most of these quantifiable results should be reserved for the specifics of your role/s, but if there’s something very relevant or particularly impressive, don’t be afraid to pop it in your personal statement as a way of grabbing the recruiter’s attention.

Finally, you might want to include a short sentence to specify what your next goal is and again, make it relevant. I know I keep repeating myself but put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes – imagine you're applying to a leading company in the insurance market recruiting for a commercial manager and you state that your next goal is to become a commercial manager within the manufacturing industry. You can just picture the head-shaking and eye-rolling can't you? This is a key example of someone who hasn't made the effort to tailor, or even check their CV and it will not go down well with the recruiter. Having said that, you may be looking to make a move into the insurance industry with your fantastically transferable skills, just make sure you make the intention...erm...intentional.

My parting thought on personal statements is to acknowledge that it can be hard to write one, so don’t be afraid to ask for help – sometimes it’s easier for someone else to articulate how fantastic you are than to blow your own, potentially out of tune, trumpet!

P.S. If you've got this far and you're still wondering why I've used an image of a trumpet-playing frog, then you've missed a couple of key points in my post, tut tut. Hint: eye-catching and showing off your achievements.