I recently wrote an article with tips on how to write a CV that stands out. In this article, I want to hone in on a particular section of your CV: the Personal Statement.
The Personal Statement is the most difficult part of a CV, but also the best opportunity to make your CV stand out from the crowd. Crafting a good Personal Statement is a bit of an art, so I’ve teamed up with recruitment agencies hireful and ecruit to share tips on how to master this art. You will also find four examples of Personal Statements at the end of this article.
What is a Personal Statement?
The Personal Statement is a section in a CV that summarises who you are. Some people also call it a Personal Profile or Executive Summary. Ben de Grouchy of recruitment agency ecruit tells us to think of a Personal Statement as a mini-story and introduction to you as a person and your career.
Your Personal Statement should be at the top of your CV, just below the heading with your name and contact details.
Do I need to have a Personal Statement?
I occasionally see CVs that don’t have a Personal Statement, even example CVs in career coaching books. You don’t need to have one, but it’s common practice in the UK and the US.
Here is why I think you should include a Personal Statement in your CV:
- It allows recruiters to capture at a glance who you are and what you bring to the table.
- It’s a great opportunity to show the real person behind the facts on your CV, for example, what motivates you to perform.
- You can mention soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and people management.
- Where your work experience is not a 100% match for the job you apply for, your Personal Statement can provide context to show why you are still a good fit.
How to structure your Personal Statement
There are no set rules on how to structure your Personal Statement. Even among recruiters, you will hear different views on this. Ben de Grouchy suggests that your Personal Statement should have the following parts:
A beginning: An introduction to you and your area of work specialization
A middle: Normally about your style of work, highlighting softer skills such as leadership or resilience
An end: Highlight what you are looking for. This should be tailored to every position you apply for!
A good length for a Personal Statement would be three to four short paragraphs.. Total word count should be between 90 and 130 words.
How to write your Personal Statement
Caroline Whiley from recruitment agency hireful shares the following tips on how to craft the perfect Personal Statement for your CV:
- Concise: Recruiters often read hundreds of CVs for just one vacancy. Make sure your Personal Statement is concise and to the point. They aren’t interested in your family history or long-winded tales about why you are job seeking! It should not be War and Peace but just one paragraph that explains who you are, what you are great at, what job you are looking for and why you’re applying for the role.
- Relevant: Tailor your Personal Statement to each role that you are applying for, as what is important to one recruiter/organisation may not be a key focus for another. For example, is a particular professional qualification an essential requirement for this role? What about the ability to travel internationally or work certain hours? Make sure to refer to it in your statement.
- Accurate: Keep reviewing your statement each time you send out a CV, to ensure all details are up to date. It’s no good referring to your “current” job, for example, when you actually left a month ago, or suggesting that you are studying when you have finished.
- First-person: Please don’t write any elements of your CV in the third person! (Personal Statement or elsewhere.) A good CV is always written in the first person, e.g. I am, I have, I will. Not only will you be making a recruiter cringe if they read your CV in the third person but it doesn’t put your profile in the best light – it sounds detached and often comes across as over-confident.
- Top of your CV: Make sure your Personal Statement is at the very top of your CV, along with your contact information and any relevant professional qualifications. Follow it with your career history. The bottom of your CV should include any other education details, snippets about you as a person (hobbies, family life, etc.) and reference details – or “references available on request” as you see fit.
Ben de Grouchy recommends keeping your Personal Statement conversational and to write it from the reader’s perspective. Use simple language that can be understood quickly and build rapport as if you were speaking to the other person. Avoid overused phrases that don’t mean much, like “feels passionate about” which Ben is tired of reading!
Make it bespoke
Caroline and Ben already mentioned it in their tips above, but I want to stress it again in this section:
Recruiters only spend seconds looking at your CV before they decide whether to bin it or not. It will help if your Personal Statement matches some of the language in the job specifications for the role. For example, if the job specifications ask for experience in negotiating “outsourcing” contracts, then use that exact term, instead of “procurement contracts” or “supplier contracts”. If you put those key words in a very short bullet point list, it will make it particularly easy for recruiters to spot them because their eyes will be drawn to them immediately.
Examples of Personal Statements
Let’s illustrate the tips from this article in a few examples. Caroline shared the following example that you can adapt to build your own:
I am a commercially focused and hands-on senior HR Generalist with significant experience gained in household name brand organizations. I am skilled in developing management teams, designing / executing successful people strategies, and delivering operational improvements. I’ve a proven track record in empowering managers to achieve high performing teams, placing culture and engagement at the heart of what I do.
I am degree qualified in Human Resources Management and currently studying CIPD Level 7 (due to complete in October 2020).
Following redundancy, I am now looking for my next opportunity in a small-to-medium sized company that has a people-centric, high-performing culture, where I can add value and build on my own personal/professional development.
Here is an example from me, which is for a lawyer who wants to move from in-house to private practice:
I am an award-winning lawyer with over 20 years’ experience of working on commercial contracts for the financial services industry. Experienced in completing complex procurement contracts within short timescales in compliance with regulatory requirements.
I am driven by my interest in finding the real commercial drivers behind legal issues so that I can deliver pragmatic solutions. My key areas of expertise:
- GDPR Compliance
- SaaS Agreements
- Software Licensing
- Cloud Services
- Distribution Agreements
Having gained experience working in-house in the banking and insurance sectors, as well as at the FCA, I am now looking to return to private practice to serve a wider range of clients and grow my own portfolio of clients.
Here is another example, this time for an IT consultant applying for his first team leader role:
I am an IT consultant with 10 years’ experience of working for online retailers such as Amazon, Ocado and Marks & Spencer’s. Specialist areas include:
- Cloud Services
- Business Continuity Planning
- Data Recovery
- Cyber Security
I am used to managing complex projects and multiple stakeholders within demanding timelines.
I am now looking for a new opportunity that will allow me to grow my leadership skills by leading a creative information technology team.
Here is one for a Marketing Manager who wishes to change industries:
I am a Marketing Manager with nine years’ experience in the retail fashion industry. I have a proven track record of turning around underperforming brands, such as [BRAND A] and [BRAND B] through digital marketing strategies. I am used to managing annual marketing budgets up to 10mill.
An excellent communicator with an emphasis on utilizing the strengths of colleagues and creating an environment of forward-thinking ideas driven by business needs, sales targets and innovative marketing solutions.
After a year of maternity leave, I am excited to return to work. Since I am a passionate foodie and looking for new challenges, I have decided to apply my skills in the consumer food industry now.