According to a 2012 research study by The Ladders, the average time spent reading a resume is just 6 seconds. For that to be more than just a discouraging statistic, you need to learn how to start a personal statement.
Unless your resume boasts a competitive edge, the hiring manager is likely to flick past it without much thought.
By including a personal statement as part of your job application, you’re making it easier for the employer to see whether or not you’ll add strategic value to the organization.
Learning how to start a personal statement could very well be the best thing you’ll ever do for your career development.
What Is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement, also known as a career summary or a personal profile, is a short paragraph that acts as an overview of you as a professional.
Simply put, a personal statement is your sales pitch.
A great one may get your foot in the door, a poor one does less than nothing.
There are two types of personal statements:
The former is useful when your resume is more than one page long. By including a personal statement, you’re making sure that the employer notices the must-see information as soon as they open your resume.
On the other hand, the latter helps employers sift through candidates, separating those applying for every job in a specific category from those that are genuinely engaged and passionate about the company.
How to Start a Personal Statement
Writing a personal statement might seem daunting, but it’s easier than it sounds.
Below we break down the process of how to start a personal statement into three steps.
1. Out of the gate
How to start a personal statement? Grab their attention.
The very first thing you want to do is introduce yourself. Who are you, and where do you currently stand in your professional field?
Are you a recent graduate? Or do you have 20 years of industry experience?
Be factual and avoid vague information.
2. What’s in it for them?
Next, you want to set yourself apart from the competition by highlighting your most relevant experience.
Notice our use of the word “relevant.” What do you bring to the table that they’re looking for?
Your personal statement should be as targeted as possible. You probably have a lot of skills. But you don’t need to mention every single one of them.
Before you even begin drafting your statement, it’s crucial that you take a moment to read the job description carefully.
The attributes you choose to highlight should mirror the skills and qualifications noted in the job description. For example, if the position requires that candidates have management experience and you’ve spent the last 10 years managing a team of people, say so.
Just listing your skills and interests isn’t good enough, though. Employers have no way of knowing whether you’re telling the truth or not.
As such, back up everything you’re saying by referring to specific results you’ve achieved.
You can also touch on your passions, but only if they’re relevant. If you’re applying for a job in sustainability, mentioning your love for the environment could potentially help you stand out among hundreds of applicants.
3. Think long-term
Finish your personal statement by mentioning your career aspirations. Just make sure that there’s a connection between your answer and the role in question.
Your career objective should help the recruiter understand why you’re applying for the job in the first place.
For example, if you’re at an early stage of your career, your goal could be gaining responsibility in leading a project.
If you’re somewhat further along in your career, your aim should be a bit more specific, such as expanding your marketing skillset.
You want to show the employer that you’re worth investing in and that you’re serious about pursuing a career in that specific area.
Words Are Only Half the Story
By now, you know what kind of information to include in your personal statement.
It’s time to talk about how to best put it all together, format matters too.
Positioning is everything
To ensure that the recruiter sees your personal statement, you need to position it appropriately.
Place your statement right at the top of your resume, under your name and your contact information. The employer should be able to see the statement in its entirety without having to scroll down the page.
If your statement doesn’t quite fit in the space you’ve allocated it, try reducing the top page margin.
Avoiding a snooze-fest
Your personal statement should be comprehensive enough to give the reader a good sense of your skills and knowledge. But make the statement too long, and the hiring manager will give up halfway through it.
Don’t bore your reader.
You don’t want to go over 200 words on a personal statement that will end up on your resume. Conversely, anything between 250 and 500 words is ideal for an application.
Remember that you can expand more on your experience in your resume or cover letter. By the way, your resume and cover letter should be perfect, or as near-perfect as possible, too.
If you’re still struggling with your resume, take a look at “How to Write the Perfect Resume: Stand Out, Land Interviews, and Get the Job You Want.”
Need help with your cover letter? “Stand Out Cover Letters: How to Write Winning Cover Letters That Get You Hired” will get you started.
How to sell yourself
Keep your personal statement simple.
Use a clean font and 1.5 line spacing to make the statement easier to read.
For a pleasant reading experience, break up your statement into two or three paragraphs. Use proper sentences but keep them sharp, to-the-point, and persuasive.
Whenever possible, use action verbs such as:
As for the narrative: It doesn’t matter whether you write your statement in the first-person or the third-person. However, never, ever use both.
Avoid overusing the word “I” if writing in the first-person. The reader already knows that the statement is about you. The more varied the composition of your sentences, the more engaging your personal statement!
If you choose to write in the third-person, remove all pronouns. For example, “she is a marketing executive looking for a new role” would become “a marketing executive looking for a new role.”
Your tone of voice should be confident and persuasive but also polite and professional. Remember that you’re selling yourself. There’s nothing wrong with bragging. But don’t go over the top. You don’t want to appear arrogant or inappropriately aggressive.
The Do’s and the Don’ts
When writing a personal statement, it’s always a good idea to keep the following five tips in mind:
- 1Reusing the same personal statement for every position you go for might be easy, but it won’t get you far. Always individualize your statement. You don’t necessarily need to re-write it every single time you go to apply for a job. But you do need to tweak it so that it reflects the role you’re gunning for.
- 2Avoid buzzwords and cliches. Phrases such as “excellent communicator,” “works well on her own or as part of a team,” and “extensive experience and passion for…” are not only boring but also overused. Hiring managers read these phrases every single day, and they’re not impressed; generic phrases can describe just about anyone in any role. You can do better than that.
- 3Your statement should be a positive introduction to you. Negative language is a big no-no.
- 4If you’ve been unemployed for a little while, don’t highlight it in your personal statement. Instead, focus on the experience you can bring to the role. Note any training courses you’ve attended or blogs and journals you’ve read to show the employer that you’re aware of the latest industry trends.Don’t have any practical work experience just yet? That doesn’t mean that learning how to start a personal statement is useless. Show the hiring manager that you’re positive and proactive. Mention any relevant skills you’ve developed by working on passion projects or from pursuing your interests.
Ready to Land Your Dream Job?
A personal statement is an excellent opportunity to summarize your unique selling points and show the employer that you’re the best candidate for the job.
Learning how to start a personal statement is intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before.
But by mastering the art of writing a personal statement, you’re one step closer to landing your dream job!
Do you have any tried-and-tested tips on how to start a personal statement? We’d love it if you shared what works for you (and what doesn’t) in the comments down below.