How to Write a Personal Statement the Right Way
First impressions are everything. It's a sad truth but us humans are a judgemental lot when it comes down to it. We probably don't mean to judge so harshly most of the time but you can blame our prehistoric brains. Millions of years of evolution have primed us to make snap decisions from, "Oh my God it's a bear, run!" to, "I immediately like this person!", and the written word doesn't escape this judgement either.
Often being the very first thing a prospective employer will see, your personal statement is going to get that prehistoric once over whether you like it or not. Coupled with the fact that your application might be one of hundreds, a cursory five second scan can make all the difference between them reading on and throwing you in the reject pile.
Writing your personal statement the right way however can help turn that three second judgment into an eventual job offer.
Why is it important to have a personal statement on your CV/LinkedIn?
Try and think of your CV and LinkedIn profile as your shop window, and your personal statement as the enticing goods that are going to draw an employers eye. You always put your best stock front and centre.
If you don't have a personal statement you're already making a recruiter work harder by having to dig through the rest of your CV or trawl through your LinkedIn profile to find out exactly what your skills are and if you're actually what they're looking for.
If the recruiter also has several hundred applications to sift through then this is likely going to lead to instant rejection. However, if you've got a snappy summary of who you are and how you can specifically help that employer, you're going to appeal directly to that prehistoric brain.
How long should a personal statement be?
We can't reiterate this enough. Keep. It. short.
Your personal statement has one job; to pique the recruiter's interest to either read on, or add you to the prospects pile. We know you might be aching to shout all your credentials from the rooftops but you'll have ample space for this in the rest of your CV, application or cover letter.
For now keep things simple, short and to the point. This isn't a hard and fast rule but keeping it between 50 and 200 words is usually the sweet spot, anything longer and you risk losing your prospective employers attention.
What to include
Start off with who you are and why you chose this particular employer
A lot of your competition will start out with the typical "I'm good at X" or "I'm great because Y" sentences which can quickly become a, "Look at me!" exercise that can come off as insincere.
The truth is, the prospective employer isn't interested in how great you think you are, they want to know exactly what are you going to do for them. What are they going to get out of this relationship? (I know, terribly selfish of them not to think of us poor applicants and our needs).
For CV personal statements, briefly state your background then show an immediate interest in the company and position you're applying for, show the employer exactly what your skills can do for them by referring to past, specific examples.
For your LinkedIn profile however feel free to go a little more generic as you can't realistically be expected to update your profile to tailor to every single job you apply for.
Simply use the same principles as above but instead of singling out an employer, talk about why you love your preferred industry instead.
Next, target your statement very specifically to the job your applying for
When you're job hunting you're likely going to be applying to dozens of jobs, this means you're going to need to tweak your personal statement on your CV and tailor it to each one.
Read the job description carefully and make specific reference to key points noted there. Are they looking for an aeronautical engineering expert? Then tell them about the innovative ideas you have for the latest jet engine and your 10 years in the industry. Do your research and apply it.
Again, for your LinkedIn profile you can be more general. Note what types of jobs you're applying for and, as you research, make a note of common themes across your applications and slot these into your LinkedIn statement.
Finally, mention your career aspirations
Show you've actually put some thought into this application and are committed to the role long term. Outlining your goals for the next few years highlights you've done some research on the company and can see yourself there long term.
What not to write
Stay away from cliches
If you use old chestnuts like "I work well in a team" or "Works well under pressure", you're immediately going to come across as boring and someone who had put no thought at all into your statement. Straight to the reject pile.
Never use a generalised personal statement on a CV
While a more general statement is fine for LinkedIn, don't do this on a CV in an individual application. While it might be tempting to start copy pasting your skills across multiple applications this is a definite no. Always tailor that statement for the specific role and the job description.
Avoid jokes and exaggeration
Use of humour or wild statements of exaggeration is a big risk in personal statements. There are of course exceptions to this, especially in the creative industry where more colorful statements can help you stand out, but in general, it's really difficult to know your audience. Keep things professional.
Spelling mistakes and grammar
A simple but often overlooked aspect of a personal statement. You might have crafted the perfect personal statement but even one mistake can spell the end of your application. Always proofread and always spell check.