How to write the perfect Personal Statement for your CV

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How to write the perfect Personal Statement for your CV



What is a Personal Statement?

The Personal Statement can be legitimately called many things:  “Career Overview”, “Objective”, “Career Overview and Objective”, “Summary”, “Personal Profile”, "Professional Profile” and sometimes, nothing at all.

Whatever you choose to call it the best definition is that it is the paragraph that begins most CVs after you have written your name and your contact details (if that is where you put the latter). And it’s important. Why?  Because it has several jobs to do, and they are all important in their own right. They can also be tricky to write, particularly if you are writing about yourself.  Let’s break it down.

Why do I need a Personal Statement? It comes down to how Recruiters and hiring managers use CVs.  They skim them, looking for clues to indicate that a candidate is a potential match for the role for which they are recruiting. How long do they give over to this crucial task?  Depending upon the research I have read and the practice I have witnessed as to how recruiters assess CVs it's between 8 and 30 seconds.   It’s fast.  Now, don’t blame the Recruiter.  They are under pressure: from their client to produce a shortlist and pressure from their boss to generate a fee.  They are also working on many jobs at any one time so they have to shift a big volume of work.  In the current environment if they have advertised the role they may have to wade through dozens or even hundreds of applications.  So, it is the job of your personal statement to be punchy and grab their attention right away and move your CV into the “look at in more detail” pile rather than the one marked “regret”. It also sets the tone for the rest of your CV.

Why are they hard to write? In my experience it is because people don’t know what to put in them.  Simple as that!  My guess is that is why you are reading this BLOG.  The biggest mistake is to write a long and banal list of things that could apply to just about anyone.  My personal list of hates includes: “works well alone and in a team” and the adjectives “enthusiastic" and "passionate”.  I used to like “passionate”, but it is distinctly out of fashion these days.  Try and be specific, do not generalise and look for those things that set you apart from your peers. And be punchy! The other reason people struggle to write Personal Statements is that it is often difficult for them to “blow their own trumpet” (best not Google that BTW).  It can be seen as a bit vulgar to do so, and in the case of many of my clients, not very “British”.  Americans do not usually have this problem.  It’s a cultural thing.  

It is also difficult for people to work out what makes them stand out from other candidates.  People say to me: “I just do my job and get on with it”.  I’m going to deal with how I get to those key achievements when working with my clients in another BLOG.

This is how to do it Make sure that your Personal Statement is structured like this:

1. The first bit : The first line tells the reader who you are, what you do and the industry in which you work.  I often read first lines like this:

A: "A commercially focused manager with extensive experience in delivering successful long term growth”. OR

B: "An accomplished Senior Manager with 20 years experience providing innovative and customer focused solutions to organisations across varied industry sectors".

On face value these are OK, but here are the alternatives:

C: (instead of A): "A highly successful and energising Sales Director, currently a member of the Main Board of Bloggs and Co, with a track record of growing international Alternative Energy businesses by driving sales, managing strategic change, leading M & A activities and building world class teams".

D: (instead of B): "A respected and highly experienced Recruitment Sales Account Director currently with SuperRecruiter, able to demonstrate a proven track record of delivering world-class RPO solutions on behalf of a wide range of blue-chip Global companies".

Examples A and B could apply to anyone in a management role in any industry.  Versions C and D give job title, industry and focus on the specialism which the person is seeking to promote in their CV.  Better, closer, warmer as Jack Black would say. (I will smile and be a little bit embarassed if you get that reference).

2. The middle bit: The middle is where you give focus to those areas of specialism and give an opportunity for you to focus the recruiter’s mind on the expertise you wish to highlight. Just a few lines will do and evidence and numbers are what we are looking for.  I’ll also cover this in more detail next week.

3. The last bit : Now tell the reader exactly why they have your CV in their hand.  An example would be:

I am seeking a leadership opportunity within an ambitious Alternative Energy business that is operationally challenged or seeking transformational change, utilising my expertise to create tangible and measurable business improvements that enhance value, build sustainable growth and deliver to the bottom line. 
In this case the phrase “leadership opportunity” has been used because this person is less focused upon job title than the opportunity.  If they use the wrong job title the recruiter might rule them out.  This is an important point. Now here's the clever bit. If you go back to my BLOG on the Golden Rules, Golden Rule Number 1 being “never use the same CV twice”, this design for a Personal Statement makes it really easy for you to tweak the Personal Statement to obey Golden Rule Number 2, “tick all of the boxes”.  
For example, if this person was approached by a headhunter regarding a Chief Executive position they can use CEO in the last section instead of "leadership position".  I they were being approached by a Headhunter for a Chief Operating Officer role they could send the Recruiter a CV using that Job Title.  Easy.  This applies just as much whatever job you are choosing to apply.  You can also re-jig the middle section to reflect the job requirements and also the objective for the CV as stated in the last line.  In fact you can re-jig the entire statement to fit the opportunity. So get jiggy with it.  
On a final note I tend to write the first 2 bits in the 3rd person and then switch to the first person for the last section.  Notice also that it is written in bold.!
In summary, follow these 3 rules when you write your Personal Statement and you won’t go far wrong.  Just make sure that you tweak the text depending upon the opportunity you are pursuing.
If you like my advice on writing CVs with impact, Interview Technique, Linkedin and Job Hunting please sign up for BLOG updates, and please tell your friends. If you don’t like my advice – please keep it to yourself.  :-)
For personal help with CV Writing, LinkedIn Profiles, Interviews or your Job Search, please check out WHAT WE DO or give me a call on +44(0)333 300 1296. 

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