Also known as a personal profile or personal summary, a personal statement is essentially a blurb for your CV. Discover if they're really necessary, how to write one and how to make it stand out to employers
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a concise paragraph or summary, which details what you can bring to a job or company. It's also known as an opening statement or executive summary.
Sitting at the top of your CV, it's your opportunity to really sell yourself to employers and to highlight the relevant skills and experience you possess.
While effectively and succinctly convincing recruiters that you're a good fit for the role, a personal statement gives you the chance to show off your strengths and share your career goals.
'The personal profile is essentially a snapshot about you that should excite and entice the employer to want to pay closer attention to your CV,' explains James Corbin, head of the careers and employability service at the University of Kent. 'It's the sales pitch that highlights your best features.'
Do I need a personal statement on my CV?
Traditionally, almost all CV types include a personal statement but in recent years there has been some debate about whether you need to include one.
Some believe that personal profiles are one of the most important parts of a CV as they provide an easily accessible overview of a candidate's ability, while others feel that personal statements are a waste of valuable space and time.
This latter belief is often the case with graduate CVs as some recruiters feel that those just stepping onto the career ladder don't have enough knowledge or experience to warrant a personal statement. Because of this, a graduate's personal profile runs the risk of being bland and generic, which is why some employers believe that they are best suited to more senior professional CVs.
Fiona Stubs, careers manager at the University of Glasgow explains, 'I'm not in favour of writing a profile as it is hard to get right. Many students' profiles tend to include a list of common strengths without a context, in some cases stating things that should be a given, for example, hardworking and organised. I feel that profiles can be more helpful when you are more senior as you can be more specific about your skills, specialisms and successes.'
While your CV doesn't necessarily need a personal statement, employers spend only seconds looking at CVs. With this in mind a personal statement can give you an invaluable opportunity to make your application stand out to employers and to set yourself apart from the competition.
If you'd like to include a personal statement on your CV it might be best, as a graduate, to focus on your educational background and the career path you'd like to embrace. If you have relevant experiences use these to make your personal statement unique.
'Work with your careers or employability advisers to hone what you are writing. Start this process early as it can take more time than you expect,' adds James.
What does a personal statement include?
In terms of length, a CV personal profile should be no longer than 150 words. Aim for a few short sentences, four or five should do the job.
If you're struggling with what to write, break your personal statement down into three parts. Focus on:
- who you are
- what you can offer
- your career aims.
Start by introducing yourself. For example, 'A recent graduate with a 2:1 in English literature from the Hillview University' or a 'Highly-skilled physiotherapist looking to progress into…'
Next, detail what you can offer the company. Ask yourself why you're suited to the particular role and cover any relevant skills or experience. If you lack practical work experience instead draw attention to your academic achievements such as contributing to university publications, which developed written communication, attention to detail and team working skills.
Conclude your personal statement by highlighting your career goals. For example, 'I am looking to start my career in the exciting world of publishing and to develop the skills learned through my university studies and internships.'
'Avoid using empty statements like 'I work well independently and as part of a team' - it's bland and tells employers nothing about what you’re capable of,' says James. 'On the other hand 'experienced event manager, who led a team to organise a charity ball for 150 people, raising £5,000 - a 20% increase on previous years' sounds dynamic and demonstrates your experience.'
It's up to you how you present this information; there is no hard and fast rule. However, personal statements are generally displayed as a single paragraph, without a title or subheading. You'll need to keep it consistent with the rest of your CV formatting, meaning that the font size and type will need to be the same throughout your document.
Also, consider the voice you'd like to use. Personal statements can be written in either the first or third person but you'll need to maintain this voice throughout - don't switch between the two.
Take a look at how to write a CV.
How can I make it stand out to employers?
- Tailor your personal statement (and CV in general) to each application.
- Be honest. Untruths are easy to uncover and lying on your CV is a criminal offence.
- Provide evidence of skills and experience but remember to keep it brief.
- Use the job description to help form your profile.
- Stick to the word limit.
- Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. The personal profile sits at the top of your CV so any errors will be immediately apparent.
- Read it aloud once you've finished writing to make sure it flows.
- Copy and paste from your cover letter.
- Include unnecessary personal information such as your age, marital status etc.
- Use clichés, slang or jargon.
- Overuse buzzwords.
- Include quotes from previous employers.
- Ramble. Recruiters don't have time to read through waffle to get to the point.
'Too many people stop sounding like themselves when they write cover letters or profiles,' says James. 'Employers aren't looking for some archaic scholar or someone who only writes in jargon, they are recruiting a real human and this is your chance to give them an insight into your experiences and personality.
Think about the connotations of the words you use - 'currently studying' implies things might change, 'trying' implies failure. The words you use have significant power, and should be chosen carefully to paint a positive and engaging picture.'
Find out more about the top 7 CV mistakes.
CV personal statement examples
To help you get started take a look at the following CV personal profile examples.
As a recent graduate from the University of Townville, with a 2:1 honours degree in marketing, I have undertaken internships at industry-leading agencies such as Beyond Imagination and Noah Freemans. These placements have allowed me to develop sector knowledge and gain hands on experience, as well as expand transferable skills such as commercial awareness, communication and negotiation and analytical skills. My career aim is to gain a role which allows me to further my expertise and take on increased responsibility at a market-leading digital marketing agency.
I am a highly motivated 2:1 forensic science graduate from Groveshire University, looking to secure a graduate position that enables me to use and develop my analytical, attention to detail and communication skills. I have gained relevant experience in both scientific and hospital laboratories, which allowed me to build on my problem solving, concentration and team working skills. My career goal is to assume a role that enables me to analyse and interpret forensic data and to eventually move into crime scene investigation.
Remember; avoid copying and pasting ready-made examples. Instead use them as a guide to craft your own, tailored CV personal statement. Take a look at our example CVs.