Everything you ever needed to know about writing your personal statement

by Heat Recruitment

Make a great first impression by writing your personal statement accordingly

On average, an employer will spend between five and seven seconds looking at your CV, so your application needs to make an impact – and fast. Including a brief paragraph at the top of your CV is one of the most effective ways to summarise your skills and experience. This is known as your personal statement. To command the hiring manager’s attention, you’ll need to immediately identify yourself as the ideal candidate they’ve been looking for.

Sometimes you’ll need to fill in a lengthy job application form, rather than sending a traditional CV and cover letter to the recruiter. It’s common for these application forms to ask for a longer personal statement, but it should still be as concise and convincing as possible.

With this is mind, when writing your personal statement, where should you begin?

Stick to a simple structure

A personal statement can be broken down into three key areas – who you are, what you want do and why you’d be brilliant at it. Luckily, it’s easy to weave these three elements into just a sentence or two. For example, in the first sentence someone may introduce themselves as ‘a highly-specialised Corporate Solicitor looking for a new challenge in…’ before diving into their relevant skills in the second sentence.

Don’t try to include all your skills and experience in your personal statement – that’s better suited to a different section of your CV – but drop in a few keywords here and there, just as you would in a cover letter. So, rather than calling yourself an ‘experienced engineer’, show off your expertise by saying ‘an ambitious engineer with eight years’ experience in…’.

Demonstrate your ambition

An employer doesn’t just want to know why you want the job they’re advertising – they want to know where you aspire to be in five years’ time. Perhaps more importantly, they want to know whether you’ll make a long-term commitment to the company. This is your chance to showcase your short- and long-term goals, in both a personal and professional sense. Keep this specific to the position you’re applying for, but consider the sector as a whole too – particularly any trends or predicted developments in the industry.

Edit, edit, and then edit again

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to include when writing your personal statement, it’s time to make sure it’s got that competitive edge. Ideally, aim for approximately 100 words for a typical CV, or a little longer if it’s for an application form. It’s much easier to write 200-300 words first, and then trim it down to make sure you’ve covered everything you need to.

This is also a good time to decide whether to write in first- or third-person. Most candidates favour the latter, as it tends to appear more credible and professional – and in general, CVs are written in third-person too. This keeps things consistent throughout the whole document, but writing in first-person allows you to bring out more of your personality, which could help you to stand out against hundreds of other CVs.

Finally, don’t forget to proof-read your personal statement several times. When you’re happy with it, ask a friend or family member to proofread it for you too. Your personal statement can be the most powerful tool in your job application, so it’s crucial that you make sure that you don’t let a simple spelling mistake slip through the net.

Looking for more advice to help you advance your career? Head to our candidate toolbox, which is full of useful hints and tips. 

Browse our toolbox