Graphic showing different elements of a CV

A personal statement is a brief summary of your career and what you have to offer an employer. It usually goes right at the start of a CV, so it’s the first thing a hiring manager reads underneath the contact details. It’s not in the same format as the personal statement that you write when you apply to college or university (see these personal statements for example) – instead, its purpose is to concisely summarise how you meet the requirements of the job advert.

The importance of this personal statement varies depending on who you speak with, but most employers will agree that you wouldn’t want to risk sending a CV without it. Overall it can add a personal touch to your application and serve as a great introduction to your credentials.

Here’s how to write a personal statement for your CV.

Make a positive impact

If you underestimate the power your personal statement can have over an employer’s decision, then you are missing out on an opportunity. From the very second the manager opens your CV they are making very quick judgements – some of them conscious and lots of them subconscious.

  • What font have they used?
  • Does the size sit well on the page?
  • Is it easy to read and navigate?
  • Are all the correct sections here?
  • Do they have the right skills and qualifications?
  • Does this CV look great?

But before they think about any of the questions above, they will want to know if you are applying for the right reasons. In other words, do you have what they need? This is where a personal statement can set things straight instantly.

If you write a great personal statement which clearly identifies who you are and why you are suitable, you are instantly going to grab the employer’s attention and make them want to read more. This is ultimately what a personal statement aims to do.

What to include in your personal statement

You can break down a personal statement into three parts. The first part should cover who you are from an educational and/or career perspective, followed by what you’re looking for. Here are two examples to help you write your first section:

A recent graduate with a 1st class degree in Business and Economics seeking a role as a Business Analyst.

A highly skilled service technician with over 15 years experience looking for a position within a BMW franchise.  

Both of the examples above instantly tell the employer why they are suitable and what they are applying for. It really is that simple, but very effective at making a great first impression.

The next part of your personal statement should cover what you can offer the company. Ask yourself why you’re suited to this particular role and what expected or even unique qualities you have which will benefit the business. Cover any relevant skills, qualifications and experience. If you are struggling to provide any relevant work experience then focus upon your academic achievements. A recent school leaver may also have voluntary work experience which could also be mentioned within the statement. Demonstrate relevant soft skills, like communication, problem solving, helping customers, monetary transactions, etc.

The third and final section should cover your career goal. This is one of the most important parts as it needs to align with the company, for obvious reasons. Be careful not to aim too high and put yourself beyond the role you seek now. For example, applying for a customer service role but stating that you want to become the manager within 3 years is probably going to put the employer off. So consider how you want to write something that’s passionate, enthusiastic, but realistic and current.

Be brief and to the point

A personal statement for a CV should be around 200 words. There are instances when it’s ok to write more than this, but for the most part this should be more than enough. Certain medical professions and teaching positions may require a lengthier personal statement, but it’s more common to keep it brief and to the point.

Keep every sentence to the point so it addresses what we’ve discussed above. Your statement shouldn’t take very long to read, especially when the hiring manager has a lot of application to go through. The average time an employer will spend reading each CV is between 10-30 seconds. If you take up a lot of that time with a lengthy personal statement you could risk the chance that they might not carry on to the best parts.

Your personal statement can be written in either first or third person, but don’t switch between the two. You must remain consistent throughout otherwise it will look unprofessional.

Personal statement tips

  • Always tailor every aspect of your application, including your personal statement.
  • Keep it brief and to the point – try to stick to 200 words.
  • Provide information on relevant skills, experience and qualifications.
  • Choose the best skills and qualifications to demonstrate your suitability.
  • Consider providing something unique that few other candidates have to offer.
  • Must have no spelling or grammatical errors – could be instantly rejected.
  • Be truthful about your credentials and career intentions – isn’t fair to the employer.
  • Don’t use cliché statements like – ‘I am a hard worker’ ‘I am a great communicator’.

Carl Thomas

Carl Thomas, an expert in employment law with 15 years of experience, advises firms on UK recruitment legislation. An LSE graduate, he writes for top legal publications and mentors law students.

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