Psst.. This is how to write a personal statement that stands you out from other applicants.
The recruiter has so many CVs to go through, and all they have to read yours is 6 seconds. How are you going to grab their attention, and stop them from passing over your CV?
Two words, personal statement.
Easily overlooked by job seekers who still think their CV and cover letter is all the need to market them when applying for a job, a personal statement is a perfect tool you need to speed up your hiring process.
Having a well-written personal statement placed at the top of your CV, summarizing who you are, what exceptional skills you have, and why you are the best candidate to get the job done is what makes the recruiter stop dead in their tracks while scanning through your CV, and is also what encourages them to keep reading till the end.
A good personal statement has the ability to not just sell you as the perfect candidate, but could also get you hired especially when the rate of unemployment remains exceedly high according to this employment statistic about South Africa
Wouldn’t you like to wield such power? Keep reading then.
A personal statement is a small paragraph that sits at the top of your CV, which is a brief summary of who you are, your strengths, skills, achievements, career experience, goals, and what you hope to offer to the recruiting company.
And it is vital to your job search process...
A Cv is strong, but without the right personal statement holding one’s attention to it, its purpose will not be fulfilled. Personal statements are what attracts recruiters to patronize a CV.
It is like a written elevator pitch that you have to give to the hiring manager, before 6 seconds runs out, on why they should keep reading your CV, without leaving it to move on to the next candidate.
These are the various examples of a CV personal statement, to give you an idea of what a personal statement should look like:
School leavers, always tailor your personal statement to suit the job role you are applying for.
Start the personal statement, by answering these three questions, why do you want to work in this industry? What skills make you right for this role (tip: base your answer on the job description)? And where do you want to go in your career?
However, it is advised that you focus on the “where do you want to go in your career question?” “and what can you bring to the business?” as well as the skills and experience you have gained through education rather than work experience while writing
A highly motivated and diligent person who recently completed their A-levels, with excellent grades in Maths and Science, who is seeking an apprenticeship in the engineering industry, to build upon a keen scientific interest and start a career as a maintenance engineer.
My ultimate career goal is to become qualified and experienced maintenance or electrical engineer, with aspirations to move into project management.
2. School Leaver Personal Statement (Part-Time Experience)
This category of school leaver has just left school but they do have some experience working part-time while they were still studying.
To make the most of your work experience, combine your academic achievements with your workplace exposure in the personal statement.
A passionate and innovative young professional with an exemplary academic record and a zeal for acquiring knowledge and professional development.
I have achieved excellent grades at GSCE level in English, Maths, and Science, and also actively participated in student mentorship and maintenance of the school environment, and I recently undertook a summer programme in the fundamentals of marketing.
Having previously worked part-time in a call centre, with experience in collaborating with team members, I believe that my reliable team-member nature, positive communication style, and hospitable nature, will make me a good fit for your team. I am looking to undertake A-Levels in business and marketing and to secure a part-time entry role as a junior marketer or sales associate to enhance my skills and experience.
3. Graduate Personal Statement (No Experience)
While writing their personal statement, graduates who have no prior experience can make up for its lack by talking about their skills and knowledge they acquired during their study, and how they have applied those skills successfully to both academic and personal projects.
An academically and commercially sharp product designer and engineer with a passion for developing and designing innovative products that save time and make the users’ lives easier.
I have a proven ability in the researching and development of new products that are designed to meet the needs of both users and the environment, with an in-depth knowledge of the principles of product design and engineering, along with product-based practical knowledge of product development process.
I am an expert in the use of Adobe In-Design, AutoCAD, Auto Desk, and Inventor Software along with a robust understanding of joinery and engineering techniques. I am due to get a BSC in Product Design and have extended Level 3 diplomas in mechanical engineering, with a covered range of associated disciplines in product designing and engineering principles.
4. Graduate Personal Statement (Freelance Experience)
This type of personal statement is best suited for a graduate who is looking to secure full-time employment after they have worked freelance while studying.
A creative, talented, and innovative graduate with consolidated expertise in web designing, digital marketing, business management, customer engagement, and business development.
I am a highly motivated junior digital marketer, educated to degree level (biochemistry) who is committed to pursuing a career in digital marketing, having run a successful small freelance business for two years, while still studying. I have made demonstratable success in overseeing and coordinating the end to end digital marketing lifecycle through defining the target audience and utilising tools like SEO, PPC, as well as content marketing strategies to drive traffic, engage customers, generate leads, and convert them to sales.
Technically proficient with sound communication and relationship management skills, being able to understand client requirements and delivering engaging digital marketing and social media solutions to drive business growth, sales, and performance. I am looking to secure a long term graduate role with a leading digital agency where I can aid client growth and further develop my digital skillset.
5. College Leaver Personal Statement (No Experience)
This personal statement is for a college leaver who has never worked before but wants to gain work experience. As a way to compensate for their lack of experience, they have made their good result prominent and have highlighted the skills and experience they have, which benefit the target employer.
An analytical A level student, with a keen interest in information technology, and in completing further studies in business management.
Having bagged 3 A grades in Maths, IT, and business studies at A level and has an aptitude for technology and finance, I am confident in providing value in IT and any workplace. I am highly skilled in multi-tasking, using strong time management capabilities to meet assignment deadlines in my studies and extra-curricular activities, such as my finance blog.
Areas of interests include computer systems, software development, and cybersecurity. I am committed to continuous learning and professional development in both IT and finance.
6. College Student Personal Statement (Freelance Experience)
College students applying for a job, who have had some freelance working experience during their studies, should not neglect to point it out while writing down their CV personal statement.
They should also give details of their studies, skills they acquired while studying, and most importantly how they have implemented these skills in real life through freelancing. They should also list the skills that they know they recruiter will be interested in based on their field.
A passionate straight-A student with a keen interest in creative writing and experience in providing high-quality articles.
With valuable experience in freelance copywriting, and currently studying to make As in Text and Performance, English Language, and creative writing, I am really keen on taking up writing as a career. Confident and good-natured, with interpersonal skills to build productive relationships with other students to develop and deliver projects and academic presentations, and equally skilled in copy and content production.
Having worked part-time as a freelance content writer, while still studying, I have demonstrated that I am able to juggle academic and professional commitments, without any qualms. Amongst other types of material, I have produced a collection of poems and contributed effectively to the publication of an anthology of English and American poems.
7. Academic Personal Statement
Apart from other types of candidates, other people who need to have personal statements on their CV, are academic professionals, mostly because of their CVs tend to be longer and more detailed than those of others.
Academic candidates should provide a high-level overview of their field of study, length of experience, and the role they held within the institution.
An exceptional Chemistry professor and educational researcher, with over 20 years of experience in the expansion and oversight of academic programs, policies, and initiatives to promote the success and achievements of students.
I exhibit senior leadership experience, having served numerous students across multiple universities, coupled with profound expertise in the development, implementation, evaluation, and continuous improvement of challenging and inspiring curricula.
I am a passionate education advocate successful in driving university-wide research; directing programs to meet the needs of university students, and building top-performing teams exclusively committed to the academic success of each student.
Currently, I work as an Associate Professor with previous academic appointments as a Technical Researcher and Adjunct Professor, with both a PhD and Masters in Chemistry, several publications and current associations with the International Chemistry Association.
8. Unemployed/ Redundancy Personal Statement
Dealing with being redundant in your place of work is never easy. But if you go about it the right way, it won’t be a problem for you when applying for jobs.
While a redundancy personal statement, focus mainly on your employment history, and you can talk about the reason for your break or unemployment in your cover letter instead. And if you have already mentioned it somewhere, don’t bother mentioning it again.
Remember the aim of a personal statement is to sell yourself as being the perfect candidate, so focus on your positive aspects, rather than apologising for the negative.
A driven Retail Manager with over ten years’ experience in the fashion industry. I have a proven track record of success, including managing the top performing store in the region and have the lowest employee turn over rate of all the other Johannesburg outlets.
Currently out of work due to company closure, looking for the right opportunity to bring my expertise to a well-established fashion brand in an upper management position.
9. Career Break Personal Statement
There are a number of good reasons why people take a career break. Some of those reasons could be parental leave, caring for a family member, plans, or long-term illness. But no matter the reason for you taking the break, it’s not something you should feel the need to justify to the employer.
As a matter of fact, explaining why you had to take a break in your CV is more of exuding confidence than explanations, so save any extra explanations for your cover letter and focus on your what you did before the break for your personal statement, and any other skills you learned that may be beneficial to the employer.
A highly motivated and experienced PA, currently looking to resume my personal career after dedicating the last five years to raising a family.
I possess excellent admin skills, thorough knowledge of all Microsoft Office Programs, as well as proficiency in minute-taking and extensive experience in liaising with clients. After volunteering for one day a week at my local charity to refresh my skills, I am now committed to continuing my career on a full-time basis.
10. Career Change Personal Statement
If you are changing careers completely, think of any skills you have that are transferable and applicable to the industry you are going into.
Any numbers you can give to demonstrate your success is crucial, even if you are moving into an area where your expertise may be slightly different. So always aim to back up your claims with examples and evidence.
Focus on one or two achievements, demonstrate the impact they had, and you’ll instantly add value to your personal statement.
As an experienced Sales Manager, my tenacious and provocative approach resulted in numerous important contract wins. My excellent networking skills have provided my team with vital client leads, and my ability to develop client’s relationship has led to an 18% increase in business renewals for my current organisation.
After 8 years in sales, currently seeking a new challenge which will utilise my meticulous attention to detail, and a friendly, professional manner.
Over the years, they have been a debate as to whether personal statements are a must-have on a CV, or not. Fact is, deciding to have a personal statement on yours is completely up to you, and there is nothing wrong with preferring to market yourself to recruiters, using your CV alone.
Even some recruiters agree that a personal statement which is a brief summary inclusive of a candidate’s work experience is better suited for experienced professionals and inexperienced candidates can be excused for not using it.
However, having a personal statement at the top of your CV is important and quite a smart decision because it is what sells it to a recruiter. How?
But if you have a short summary waiting for them at the top, telling them everything they need to know about you and why you are the best candidate in 3 or 5 lines, they will stop to read your CV because you have attracted their attention and you have what they are looking for in a candidate. Basically, you have made their job easier.
Mind you, simply having a personal statement is not enough. It has to be well-written and formatted in such a way that it produces the effect mentioned above. If your personal statement is weak and badly written, no recruiter will be impressed by it.
That brings us to our next topic, how to write a personal statement.
Your personal statement should absolutely include an overview of who you are, your strengths, and any work experience and/or education you have. Also, add the skills you have acquired, such as time management, customer service, teamwork, computer skills, etc.
Don’t clutter the statement with boring cliche talks like “hard worker or works well in a team”. And if you have little or no work experience, you can make up for it by adding your hobbies, interests or activities, which portray skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
On the other hand, writing a good personal statement is not just about putting down a summary of your skills, achievements, career, and goals. It also involves using the right formatting style and tenses, knowing what information to add, which ones to leave out, and how long it should be.
In this part of the guide, we will be discussing how to write a personal statement, basing it on the aspects of:
1. Personal Statement Format
To ensure that your personal statement looks well-organized and laid out to the recruiter, follow these formats:
Your personal statement must sit at the very top of your CV, and all of it should be visible to the reader in one glance, without them having to scroll down the page to see the rest of it.
To do this, reduce the top page margin and minimise the space being taken up by your contact details. Doing this will ensure that your personal statement can be seen once your CV is open.
Size / Length
A personal statement should provide just enough details to provide an introduction to your skills and knowledge, but not so much info that it bores your reader.
In order to attain balance, 8-15 lines of text are perfect, and the statement should be sharp and to the point.
Just like the rest of your CV, the personal statement should be written in a clean simple font at around size 10-12 to ensure that it can be easily read by the recruiter or employer.
Keep the text colour simple, ensuring that it contrasts the background (black text on a white background is best), and break it into 2 or even 3 paragraphs to create a good reading experience.
Write in a persuasive tone, to help sell yourself and increase your chances of landing interviews. You can use a tool like Grammarly to check for and correct errors in your statement.
Once you have been able to answer all these questions, you will have a better understanding of what values you can b.ring to the role. You can use these answers to structure your personal statement, identifying what parts to lay emphasis on and which ones to downplay.
For instance, if you don’t have any work experience, you can emphasize your academic accomplishments and the transferable skills and training you have acquired over the years.
Your personal statement doesn’t necessarily need a title. It sits under your name, contact information and before your job history and education, so, it is an introduction to you.
Another important to consider is to make the spacing bigger, by increasing it to 1.5, so that it will be clear for the recruiter to read.
Start your personal statement by answering the “who are you?” question. This is usually a brief introduction of yourself and a professional summary.
Your personal statement should be filled with content that affirms the recruiter that you are the best person for the job and that your CV is worth reading.
Here is what you should include:
Before you start writing a personal statement, do some research to find out what kind of person the recruiter is exactly looking for, and what they want in a candidate.
Run a search of your target job on job sites like MyJobMag, look through the job adverts and make a list of candidate requirements that frequently appear.
This research will help you know what to include in your statement so that you can impress the person reading it.
Education and qualifications are both important aspects of a personal statement, especially if you are a junior candidate with no work experience, freelance or full-time.
Highlight your highest and most relevant qualifications, whether it is a degree, A-Levels or GCSEs. You could also go into more details like modules, paper, etc. if they are relevant to the role you are applying for.
Including your work experience in your personal statement is important because it gives the recruiter an idea about the kind of work you are comfortable doing.
Usually, this will be about direct employed work experience, but it doesn’t have to be. You are free to include experiences like:
Your experience should be tailored to meet the job role requirements. When discussing your experience, also include skills used, industries worked in, types of companies worked for, and people you have worked with.
Where possible, try to insert the impact your actions have made. E.g. a customer service agent helps to make sales for their boss.
Put down in your personal statement, any industry-specific knowledge you have, which you know will benefit your employers.
Also, include information about the roles you are applying for and why you are doing so. Show genuine interest and passion for the industry you wish to venture in because employers like candidates who are genuinely motivated and driven in their work.
Your personal statement in any person (third or first-person) or tense, as long as consistency is maintained throughout.
This means avoiding statements like; “I am a recent business economics graduate. Excellent analytical and organisational skills. I am a driven and self-motivated individual that always gives 100% in everything I do. Proven track record of success”.
The things you choose to leave out of your personal statement are just as important as the things you should add.
When you are writing your personal statement, here are the things you should avoid:
Just like you do with your CV, there is certain information which you could disclose to the recruiter in your personal statement, that is completely irrelevant and uncalled for.
Any information (professional or not) that isn’t relevant to the job role or its requirements, do not put it in your personal statement. E.g; if you were a teacher 6 years ago, that is great, but not relevant to an advertising job in any way.
If you describe yourself as “hardworking and a team player”, you are not doing yourself any favours.
These cliche teams are overused by job applicants and do not provide the reader with any factual detail about you, so keep their use to a minimum. Instead of these words, stick to education, skills, experience, achievement, and knowledge.
Hooking a potential employer in 6 seconds or less seems like too much pressure, but it doesn’t have to be with the right strategy.
These 4 things can help you craft a personal statement, that stands out:
Instead of buzzwords, use keywords. Having keywords in your personal statement are specific words or required skills taken directly from the job advert.
Including keywords will make it easier for your CV to pass the initial screening from a recruiting software known as Applicants Tracking System (ATS) if the company is using any.
It also shows the recruiter that you understand the role and have the required skills to back it up. Once they see that you have what they are looking for, it will be easier for you to be picked out.
10 years startup veteran, including business rated in the fastest-growing. Strategic advisor with a speciality in fast-growing forecasting, initial finance and operations function setup in SaaS, e-commerce, fintech, and block-chain businesses. Proven team-builder, creating and FP&A function from scratch, and leading first hire to full CIMA qualifications.
Note: the keywords are written in bold.
Why Does This Work?
Keywords will make it easier for the ATS to drag your CV out of a pile.
It also makes it easier for the recruitment professionals to match the keywords on the applicant’s personal statement, to the requirements they want in a candidate.
Focusing On Brevity:
A personal statement should be a maximum of three to five lines. Think of it as an elevator pitch, keep it clear, concise and to the point.
If you happen to be applying for multiple roles, then have multiple versions of your personal statement. Make sure that each of them is tailored to suit the specific role you are applying for. Don’t use on for all, and keep it short.
CIM qualified VP marketing experienced in growing market share and penetrating new markets for world-class luxury goods brands. Fluent in French, I have held country leadership roles in Belgium and Singapore and possess excellent Digital Marketing skills.
Cape-town based, I am now seeking a Chief Commercial Officer role with an entrepreneurial, fast-paced luxury brand with international growth.
Why Does This Work?
Form this personal statement, it is clear that the applicant is an expert Digital Marketer, the inclusion of french language capability and markets worked in, conveys the message that they have international experience, and ATS will instantly match them with jobs in Capetown.
Also, their statement contains keywords.
Recruiters look at hundreds of CVs each day. For yours to stand out, you need to include specific data and actionable statistics in your personal statements.
Numbers showing successes in your previous role will help as well to quantify your success.
Target-oriented Sales Executive candidate with a 15-year sales record. Proven success in B2B to B2C verticals. Grew (company XYZ)’s client base from 10 to 50 within one year. Increased sales by 40 per cent by implementing a new lead qualification tool.
As a confident networker, brings to the table effective relationship with key senior contacts in FTSE 250 organizations.
Why Does This Work?
Adding a 40 per cent metric to the statement above, makes it stand up more than just saying “I increased sales by implementing a new lead qualification tool”.
While dropping a company name in your personal statement, always add metrics to back up your results working with a big firm.
Bullet points are an acceptable option to add to your personal statement if you struggle with articulating your values in full sentences. Additionally, this style is more reader-friendly, concise, and often the preferred style of recruiters and executive level-candidates.
Why Does This Work?
The personal statement is a brief but strong synopsis of their work experience. The bullets also make it easy for the recruiter to quickly scan and understand what they do, and if they are the right candidate.
If you wish to use the bullet points, follow this outline:
A personal statement shouldn’t be too long. It should be a short and quick description of 50-150 words.
Remember that your personal statement is not a personal essay or cover letter, but a simple summary of who you are as a professional. Recruiters and employers use only a few seconds to view your CV, so you want to grab their attention in just a few lines.
For your personal statement to make an impact on the reader, you need to write in a persuasive tone. This can be done by bragging a little (never too much), it is about selling yourself and being confident but not to the point of arrogance.
Marketing graduate with the highest exam results in class and a passion for embarking on a long and successful career within digital.
Marketing graduate with an interest in entering the digital field.
The first sentence makes the applicant appear confident and sure about what they want for their career and also highlighted an academic achievement.
The end of your personal statement is equally as important as the beginning, don’t write it half-heartedly and in a rushed manner.
When ending it, do so with an objective. It is a chance for you to wrap up your statement with an explanation of why you want the role, and why you are the best candidate for the job.
Here is a key list of dos and don’ts to help you create the perfect personal statement.
Okay, guys, before we end this guide, a quick recap on writing a personal statement to keep in mind the next time you are applying for a job, featuring…
13. Key Points For Writing An Interesting And Dynamic Personal Statement
Below is our impressive lineup of points:
A personal statement is an important part of your CV, it is important that you put in the effort while writing it because it sells both you and your CV to the recruiter and if written excellently it could even land you an interview.
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