Writing a personal statement for your CV
CV personal statements are like the sales pitch of your CV, but not everyone thinks they're useful. Discover if they're really necessary, how to write a CV personal profile and templates for inspiration
What is a CV personal statement?
A CV 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, personal profile, personal summary or executive summary.
Sitting at the top of your CV, it's your opportunity to 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 focus of your CV statement should be to target your offer to employers - why should they hire you and how are you different to other graduates? Therefore, making your personal statement as unique as possible is crucial to ensure you stand out from the crowd,' explains Alex Proctor, careers consultant at the University of Bradford.
Do I need a personal summary on my CV?
Traditionally, almost all CV types include a personal statement but there is some debate about whether you actually need to include one.
Some recruiters and careers advisers 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.
The latter belief is often the case with graduate CVs, as some employers feel that those just stepping onto the career ladder don't necessarily 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 and stating things that should be a given, such as, 'I'm hardworking and organised,' which is why some recruiters believe that they are best suited to more senior CVs.
So while your CV doesn't need a personal statement, employers spend only seconds looking at application documents. With this in mind, a CV personal statement gives you an invaluable opportunity to make your application stand out as quickly as possible.
Alex believes 'that a CV personal statement is a good idea, because employers often have so many CVs to read through and the personal statement, if clear and concise, can elevate your chances of getting through to the next stage of the recruitment process.'
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. 'If you haven’t got much work experience, focus on what experience you can extract from your degree,' advises Alex. 'If you have taken part in various projects demonstrate what your role was. Alternatively, if you have written a dissertation, showcase your topic and what skills you have developed from this experience. Employers will value your individuality even if you haven't had masses of practical work experience.'
If you're struggling to give it context and get it right, make an appointment with your university's careers or employability service and ask an adviser to help you hone your writing.
What should I include in my CV personal profile?
In terms of length, a CV personal profile should be no longer than 150 words. 'It should be short, impactful and aligned effectively with the CV content,' explains David Ainscough, careers consultant team lead and deputy director at the University of Cambridge.
'A personal CV profile should include details of your educational background, evidence of work experience, as well as your career aspirations. You ideally need to ensure you are telling the reader what you can offer skill-wise and don't be afraid to also share any accomplishments,' adds Alex.
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 with five years’ experience…'
Next, detail what you can offer the company. Ask yourself why you're suited to the 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 teamworking skills. Or how you applied skills learned on your physical therapy degree during your time as a physio assistant for university sport teams.
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.'
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 and tense 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?
- 'Remember that first impressions count so make sure you're giving the recruiter a comfortable reading experience. Layout and clarity are crucial,' says David.
- Tailor your CV 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. For example, 'experienced event manager, who led a team to organise a charity ball for 150 people, raising £5,000 - a 20% increase on previous years.'
- Use the job description to help form your CV personal profile.
- Stick to the word limit.
- Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. The personal summary sits at the top of your CV so any errors will be immediately apparent.
- 'Keep it fresh. It needs to be reviewed in each application you make so consider something new to say each time,' adds David.
- Read it aloud once you've finished writing to make sure it flows.
- Copy and paste from your cover letter or from online CV personal statement examples. Your personal summary needs to be unique and personal to you.
- Include unnecessary personal information such as your age, marital status etc.
- Use clichés, slang or jargon.
- Use bland, empty statements like 'I work well independently and as part of a team'. This tells employers absolutely nothing about what you’re capable of.
- Overuse buzzwords.
- Include quotes from previous employers.
- Ramble. Recruiters don't have time to read through waffle, so get to the point.
Think about the connotations of the words you use - 'currently studying' implies things might change, 'trying' implies failure, 'might' or 'maybe' sounds like you're not sure. The words you use have power so choose them carefully. You want to sound confident, positive and enthusiastic.
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.
Find out more
- Learn more about applying for jobs.
- Get more advice on CVs and cover letters.