Using a Personal Statement on a CV
One thing that is often apparent on CVs is that people seem to take the wrong approach to their personal statement on the CV. It seems to be the accepted norm that the personal statement is used to put down quite a bland description of what the individual perceives to be their skills. This means that the CV ends up with something along the lines of
“a bright tenacious individual with good time management skills and an understanding of effective management, a good sense of humour and the ability to perform exceptionally in all team environments”.
This is an approach that I think comes from careers advisers in various locations who seem to think that it is a good way to fill up part of a CV. If anyone has any evidence or justification for this type of statement on a CV then please feel free to send it through and I will post your response in full on our website.
Personally I have never been able to read one of these statements on a CV and completely ignore them, and have never heard of anyone else who would be prepared or able to read one either.
There are two specific problems with this sort of information on a CV.
Firstly it is all subjective and is a matter of opinion as to whether you are a good time keeper or have effect management skills. There is never any evidence given for this and no context in which to evaluate this type of statement.
The second problem with this is it is on its own at the top of the page and even if there was something within this information that was of interest the reader would still need to go and hunt out exactly where that skill was obtained in order to be able to determine how true the statement was.
A CV should contain objective factual information and not subjective descriptions, or indeed anything that you plan to do in the future.
I can easily describe myself on a CV as an excellent legal recruitment consultant and non-practising solicitor with outstanding proven results, but this means nothing. However if I write that I am a legal recruitment consultant with 13 years experience of recruiting over 900 solicitors for over 1,500 law firms, then this is a piece of factual information that sets out exactly that I have done. Whether or not I am a good recruiter, a reader can see that I am certainly an experienced one.
Your personal statement needs to set out your job title, how many years experience you have, where you are looking for work, how much money you want and when you are available to start. A quick example of this would be
“A Conveyancing Solicitor with over 9 years experience dealing with both freehold and leasehold residential properties looking for a suitable position in West London. Salary levels negotiable and available immediately”.
This covers all of those points and should be tailored according to the post you are going for.
For example if you are a solicitor and making an application for a conveyancing solicitor position (and obviously not misleading anybody), you can describe yourself as a conveyancing solicitor as your job title, changing this according this according to the post which you are going for.
This is a particularly important point as a number of recruiters and HR Departments will not really understand the difference between one sort of solicitor and another, and if you do not spell it out for them you may miss out on the opportunity.
Jonathan Fagan LLM Solicitor (non-practising) is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly writes the Legal Recruitment blog, an award-winning selection of articles and features on legal recruitment and the legal profession. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit one of our websites.
A critical aspect of creating an effective CV is writing a personal statement, sometimes called a profile or career summary, that enables the recruiter to quickly identify the strategic value you can add to their organisation. Your CV should be a self-marketing document aimed at persuading the recruiter to interview you – and your personal statement is a critical part of making this happen.
Many candidates struggle with writing the statement but it doesn't have to be a difficult as you may think. A well written statement can be between 50 and 200 words, although it is important not to ramble. Remember you always have your cover letter for interesting and engaging information.
It's important to read the job specification carefully and ensure not only that your skills and experience match but you reflect this in your statement. I am often asked whether a statement should be written in the first or third person and, while there are no definitive rules about this, my preference is always to write in the first person because the CV is all about you and your skillset. This doesn't mean that you have to add "I" at the beginning of each sentence, however. The reader knows it's about you so avoid this type of repetition and keep them engaged in your value and transferable skills.
For example an opening statement without the opening "I" could read:
As a highly-motivated and results orientated manager within the luxury hotel sector, I have a proven track record of providing exemplary levels of service to a broad range of guests, including VIPs and high-profile individuals.
This example reads naturally and flows for the reader, whereas if an "I" was inserted at the start, while not hugely different, it would read more like a list. As you move forward with additional information it then becomes difficult to break out of the format you have started.
As a general rule, it's best to break the statement into three sections:
Who you are
As recent graduate from Durham University, with a 2:1 honours degree in media communications, I have undertaken several internships within leading organisations such as Bertelsmann and Times Warner. These placements have enabled me to develop not only specific media industry experience, but also a valuable and transferable skill set in this fast-paced sector.
The above opening allowes the recruiter to quickly identify where you are coming from, that you have had industry experience (something that may be in the selection criteria) and core transferable skills. This in itself could be enough for your opening statement, but it can be expanded upon by adding some additional information.
What you can bring to the table
During placement with Bertelsmann, I worked in the media division contributing to projects – such as the award-winning China Max Documentary – and managed my own research, liaised with various divisions, formulated media reports and participated in group project meetings. Utilising excellent communication skills, I developed and maintained successful working relationships with both internal and external staff.
Your career aim
Looking to secure a position in a media organisation, where I can bring immediate and strategic value and develop current skillset further.
An example of a poorly written personal statement
Tim is a recent graduate from Durham University with a 2:1 honours degree in media communications. I have undertaken several internships within leading organisations. Tim is now looking to secure a position in a media organisation where I can develop my current skill set.
The mismatch of first and third person is not only confusing to the reader, but it almost sounds like a profile about different people. It also lacks specific detail and proof of what value the candidate could bring to the company.
Key points on writing a dynamic and interesting personal statement:
- • Get straight to the point: avoid lengthy descriptions and make your testimonies punchy and informative.
- • Keep it between 50 to 200 words maximum.
- • If you have enough space, use 1.5 line spacing to make you statement easier to read.
- • Match person and job specifications with well written copy.
- • Read your profile out loud to ensure it reads naturally.
- • Don't mix first and third person sentences.
Other essential resources
•Three excellent cover letter examples
•CV templates: graduates, career changers and ladder climbers
•What questions to ask at the end of your interview
•How to write a CV when you lack direct work experience
Elizabeth Bacchus is a consultant and founder of The Successful CV Company.
This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To get more content and advice like this direct to your inbox, sign up for our weekly update and careers ebook.