What your personal statement should say about you

By: Yasmine Shaban

Your CV is a crucial sales tool when it comes to finding a new job. Everything contained within those two or three pages is crucial and can be the make or break when it comes to being shortlisted for interview or making the final decision between several equally strong candidates.

But it’s your personal statement – those four or five lines, maybe as few as a hundred words – that has to work hardest. When a pile of CVs land on an employer’s desk you can be fairly confident that they will not be read from beginning to end. A skim read to sift the good from the bad, the illustrious careers from significant lack of appropriate experience is probably as good as it gets at the initial stage, and you want to be sure that your CV is retained for closer inspection. You need to give yourself as good an opportunity as possible to make an impression within seconds, and that’s why it’s so important to get this section absolutely perfect.

So what is a personal statement?

Essentially, a personal statement sets out your stall, giving a summary of your career to date, key skills and knowledge, your ambitions and how you will add value to a company – it’s the personal equivalent of a company’s mission statement. All of this needs to be written to closely relate to the job description of the position for which you’re applying and so demonstrate that you are a good ‘fit’.

Keep these points in mind when writing your statement:

  • Be concise. Anything more than 200 words is too long and won’t be read. Cut out the waffle, think carefully about what really matters. Make every word count and make sure that every sentence covers a key selling point.
  • Be consistent in tone. Make a decision about whether to describe yourself in the first or third person and stick to it.
  • Always refer to the job description. Be clear about the qualities the company is looking for and how you can satisfy the criteria. Don’t be tempted to fabricate skills or achievements that can’t be substantiated – you will be quickly found out and could potentially ruin your chances with that company in the future.
  • Avoid clichés. It’s so easy to say that you’re a good team player, but plenty of other candidates will be doing exactly the same. Find fresh alternatives to say the same thing.
  • Remember that employers want to know what you can do for them, so don’t fall into the trap of ‘me, me, me’. Make it clear that you can do everything outlined within the job description and how you will benefit the company.
  • Carrying on from the previous point, make sure that there is a clear reason for mentioning key skills. For instance, good communication skills are all very well, but good communication skills that are used to win high value contracts are much more attractive.

Admittedly, crafting a personal statement can be a challenge – it may not come easily, especially if you feel uncomfortable trying to sell yourself. So look on it as an honest appraisal of yourself, less an exercise in singing your own praises. A second pair of eyes on your statement is also very useful – someone who knows you well or your recruitment consultant. Finally, remember that you may need to tailor your personal statement according to specific job applications – don’t just settle for a generic ‘one size fits all’ version.

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