The CV personal statement is not just about who you are or who you were – it is about showing who you will be in the context of a specific future role. The personal statement needs to excite your future boss: “wow, they are a bit of me.”
These few short lines require a great deal of thought. We will explore:
- What is a curriculum vitae personal statement?
- The format of a CV personal statement.
- How to write a statement that makes an impact.
- Which messages employers look for at the top of a CV.
- Mistakes to avoid when writing a CV personal statement
You might not like talking about yourself, but your future career will depend on it.
What is a CV personal statement?
The CV personal statement is an extended tagline for your career. It is your best attempt at summarising your experience, skills and ambitions in a targeted elevator pitch for a specific job. It is your personal rallying call when you think about why you deserve this job over anyone else.
If you can’t get excited about your CV personal statement, then you are either not a fit for the role or you haven’t written it well enough. If the former is the case, then stop wasting time and move on. If the latter is the case, then you really need to double down on making the most of those few short lines.
Your opening salvo might be the only thing that a potential employer reads.
Does a personal statement need a title?
It may be that certain CV builders call this section a summary and others may not include a title at all. Either is fine - employers are used to seeing these few sentences at the top of your CV as the elevator pitch for your candidacy.
The format of a personal statement
Just as we all have different aspects of our story that we wish to emphasise, there is no ideal blueprint for a CV personal statement. However, while the structure might vary, many of the component parts will remain the same. A CV personal statement should include:
- Between 50 and 200 words, but try to keep it as brief as possible
- The title of role that you wish to secure (with industry-specific examples)
- An opening hook for your curriculum vitae to grab the attention
- Big-hitter accomplishment(s) that convey both soft and hard skills
- Only share numbers on a CV if they set you apart at the top of your field
- A tight fit for the requirements of the job and the company culture
A mix of the above would create a great introduction you your CV, so let’s delve a little deeper into the detail.
Messages that employers look for in a personal statement:
- Is the personal statement written for me?
- Does it impress me in within the context of the role?
- Does the candidate believe they are the best person for the job?
- Does the CV personal statement make me want to find out more?
How to write a personal statement
Crafting a powerful “why hire me” CV personal statement is a daunting prospect for even the most proficient of writers. It is not only the mechanics of writing a compelling personal sales pitch; you first have to work out what sort of a person they are looking for and then explore the depths of your soul to see whether you have what it takes.
1. Imagine their ideal candidate and fit yourself into that mould.
Before you think about parading your greatest hits, you have to tackle the personal statement from the point of view of the employer. Use every resource and contact at your disposal to build up a picture of what their ideal candidate looks like and what they will be expected to achieve. Then make your case within that framework.
2. Mirror the language of the job description to hint at cultural fit.
On a subconscious level, the language that you use matters a lot. If you “sound like” one of them, you may be forgiven if your message is a little off. Pick up on the language of the job description, the employer brand page and even anything that the hiring manager has shared on social. Remain authentic; but imitate where possible.
3. Brainstorm all the amazing things you could say – then trim to size.
You’ll have had a lot of highlights in your career and there are many skills that you can bring to the party, so do yourself a favour and write them all down. Then forget about it for a while and do something else. When you come back to your list, your distracted mind will have worked its magic and certain things will jump off the page.
4. Experiment, edit and polish for each role that you apply for.
It is hard to imagine and even harder to put into practice, but each role that you apply for should have a different CV personal statement. Sure, you might publish a generic version of your CV on socials, but if you take the time to experiment and amend it for each role, you will understand just how different each personal summary could be.
5. Plan to write your personal statement last – let it come naturally.
It is impossible to distil your essence into a few concise sentences on your CV personal statement when you haven’t completed your CV and cover letter . Put the hard work in on those two and give yourself the time and headspace to work out exactly what you want to say about yourself in those first few crucial lines.
The right action verbs can add to your story. Many of us think that our career achievements are a little too “normal” for us to get that dream job. While that may be the case, you can elevate your accomplishments with action verbs:
Some people may write: “Managed a team of five analysts.”
You might write: “Coached and mobilised a team of five analysts.”
Mistakes to avoid when writing
What feels right as a CV personal statement will vary from candidate to candidate, but it is safe to say that there are a number of mistakes which should be avoided:
Is false humility detracting from your impact? Don’t be coy about just how amazing you are. Any sentence that starts “I believe I am….” will hardly get a future employer chomping at the bit to hire you. Keep it simple, use a more formal third person voice if you wish, and keep the big hits coming without the humblebrags.
Does the CV personal statement sound generic and boring? If your personal statement sounds like it could be written about one of your colleagues, then it is not specific enough. If any part of it sounds like a list of responsibilities that are copied from the job description, then rewrite it. Likewise, if it doesn’t excite you, rewrite it. Highlight your personal strengths.
Does it read like a piece of hopeful fiction without any substance? The worst type of CV personal statement is the one that is written like a wistful work of fiction rather than a factual account of your brilliance. Include numbers, offer some context and give your future employer some hope that you really do have what it takes.
Is the personal statement full of cliches and meaningless adjectives? Creating a CV is no simple matter and as you come to writing the personal statement it may well be that your brain is a little frazzled. At this point, it is tempting to pad it with fluffy adjectives and job search cliches. Don’t. Keep it authentic.
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The personal statement is the one place in your CV where you can write in a free-flowing narrative voice. You can write whatever you like and hopefully we have offered you some tips in terms of making the most of the opportunity:
- Create a personal statement full of impressive achievements and skills.
- Write it for a specific employer and a specific role – avoid generic cliches.
- Mirror the employer’s language and carefully edit your personal sales pitch.
- Quantify with numbers and give context to accomplishments where possible
Resume.io has some impactful CV templates that serve as a fantastic frame for your CV personal statement and career story. Why not choose the right one for you?