Everything You Need to Know About Personal Statements
Did you know on average recruiters only spend 6 seconds reviewing a CV? If your job search isn’t going well, a good personal statement could turn those 6 seconds into 24 seconds or more, setting you on a path towards the interview stage.
It will also help you customise your CV for the individual job and stand out as a result. As a career coach explains:
It is important to target your CV to a particular role to stand out from the competition. Making your CV appear too generic will give the impression that you have made little effort in the application process."
-Corinne Mills, career coach
What is the purpose of a personal statement?
The primary purpose of a personal statement is to summarise your experience and motivate recruiters to read the rest of your CV. To do that well you need to write it in a way that gets their attention and include your key strengths.
To help your CV stand out, we’ve put together some personal statement tips. These plus our personal statement examples give you everything you need to know to build a perfect personal statement, and take the next step in your career.
What Makes a Strong Personal Statement?
A strong personal statement summarises your experience in a way that’s relevant and interesting to recruiters. Do this well and you will help them quickly get a measure of who you are, and why they should read on. The structure and characteristics of a strong personal statement should include:
- Highlighted experience, skills and strengths relevant to the job.
- Professionally written copy that sets the tone and language for your CV.
- Short punchy sentences that are easy to read.
- Relevant keywords for the job and essential requirements.
Most importantly, a strong personal statement should ‘make a statement’. That is express who you are and showcase your personality, which will help you demonstrate why you're the ideal candidate.
How to choose which strengths and skills to highlight
The best way to do this is to read through the job description with a notepad handy. Write down any memories or projects that showcase the skills and experience on the list of requirements. You can also put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and ask these questions:
- What makes you the ideal candidate for this position?
- Why should they consider you ahead of any other candidates applying?
- What is it about this employer that inspires you?
- If you had to pick a proud moment from your career what would it be?
- What would your colleagues say about you?
The personal statement is about exploring your own strengths and selling yourself. If you're struggling, ask a friend to do the exercise with you or answer on your behalf. Chances are they’ll be much more comfortable talking you up, and will boost your confidence in the process.
Choosing a voice for your personal statement: First vs third person
Traditionally, third person is the most popular voice for CV personal statements. This is mainly because people are less comfortable talking confidently about themselves, and some people worry that first person could come across as arrogant or boastful.
But some recruiters believe that the third person is unnatural and inauthentic. From their perspective, they know you have written it, so why pretend otherwise? And applicants for marketing or PR roles are often advised to use the first person, as one recruitment blog notes:
We estimate that around ten percent of all CVs that we receive... are written in the third person. Upon reading these CVs our first thought is often that perhaps the candidate started their CV with a testimonial... but then we read on. And get highly confused as it becomes clear that they either got somebody else to write their CV, or they have made the decision to roll with it. In some disciplines, this may be deemed the best way to write a CV, but in our opinion, marketing and PR are not amongst them."
The best way to increase your chances of pleasing everyone is to avoid pronouns where possible. That is, avoid the use of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘he’ or ‘she. For example, instead of writing ‘I managed a team of sales executives’, write ‘managed a team of sales executives’. This neatly resolves the debate.
Whichever voice you decide to use, the ultimate goal is to make your personal statement interesting and easy to read. Choose a CV personal statement template that makes sense, do what comes naturally and you'll be onto a winner. Just make sure you remain consistent throughout your CV.
20 Great Personal Statement Examples from UK CVs
The best way to create a great personal statement is to follow by example, by listening to expert advice and finding personal statement examples.
Our personal statement examples are written for jobs with UK employers in mind. They’ll help you to save time sifting through thousands of random examples that don’t hit the mark, and spend more time making progress on your job hunt.
Law Personal Statement
A law firm will be used to dealing with lengthy documents and skimming for relevant keywords. They know how to get straight to where they need to be and move on swiftly from anything that is irrelevant or unnecessary. This adds pressure to get your personal statement just right and get straight to the point.
Our law personal statement example will help you highlight how you're relevant for the role. It will also encourage you to include key successes and similar cases by industry or nature, which includes keywords and terminology that is likely to catch their eye.
Graphic design Personal Statement
There are some different expectations when it comes to recruiting design staff. Beyond the essential requirements, your personal statement should capture a recruiter’s imagination.
It’s not only about proving that you’re talented and right for the job but also proving you are the right fit for the team. Our graphic design personal statement examples are professional but use a conversational tone. They’ll guide you to include attention-grabbing details.
Nursing Personal Statement
There’s a lot of pressure on nursing staff to meet operational demands with little room for error, so finding the right person is hugely important. Nursing roles often get a higher volume of applications with similar experience, so recruiters on the lookout for standout CVs.
You need to draw them in and show them that you’re right for the job, in terms of education and experience but also in character. They also need to have confidence in your ability to write reports and communicate well, qualities that are essential in nursing.
University Personal Statement
Demonstrating your strengths as a potential university student or employee requires a different approach. You need to focus on communicating your willingness to learn and unrivalled passion for your subject area.
If your chosen university has a lot of applicants, chances are they're tired of the same ‘hard-working’ and ‘dedicated’ clichés. Avoid using stock phrases or pretending to be something you’re not. Instead, give them a taste of who you are and what really motivates you.
Engineering Personal Statement
If you're applying for jobs in engineering it goes without saying that you need the relevant qualifications. We’ll help you go beyond the basic expectations and explore what makes you right for the specific company.
We give you a pre-populated personal template created based on typical engineering career pathways. It’s a template with everything you need to create a winning personal statement that steers you towards the top of that interview shortlist.
Accounting and finance Personal Statement
Being methodical and accurate are key attributes for accounting and finance. That's why a professional and well-written personal statement is particularly important.
There are also a variety of financial job roles that need a different approach. For instance, a finance director will care about company-wide objectives, whereas an accounts assistant should be able to adept in dealing with large volumes of data.
All you need to do is select the right template for the right job you’re after and you can finally solve your 'job search' equation.
Mechanical engineering Personal Statement
There are many mechanical engineering sub-disciplines including mechanics, thermodynamics, and structural analysis. Each one requires different training and accreditation, but all require a similar approach.
Our mechanical engineering personal statement will communicate your relevance for the chosen discipline. They also will help you show your potential as a reliable, efficient and personable addition to the team.
Good Personal Statement
A good personal statement is a concise paragraph that clearly communicates what you have to offer a prospective employer. It’s a positive statement that touches on both your experience and ambitions.
Our good personal statement example will help your CV stand out for all the right reasons in a competitive market. All you need to do is get started with our CV builder.
Business management Personal Statement
Your personal statement is a great opportunity to showcase the key qualities you will bring to the company as a business manager. In particular, recruiters will be on the lookout for candidates with strong communication and listening skills.
Our business management personal statements will help you to think beyond clichéd terms like ‘I am a good communicator’. This will help you get ahead of the game and increase your chances of making it through to the next stage of the recruitment process.
Social work Personal Statement
Experience and qualifications are important for social workers, but so is empathy and being good with people. If you successfully demonstrate your passion for the job and motivation for applying it will make all the difference.
Employers will be keen to hear about any specific challenges relevant to the position you’re applying for. Our social work personal statement will provide you with appropriate narrative typical for social work applications. All you need to do is select the right template and customise the content.
Business Personal Statement
First impressions are everything in business. Your personal statement is your opportunity to make a great first impression, exuding confidence and business acumen.
All of our business personal statements are written in a professional tone in a range of styles to suit every experience level. This will allow you to create the perfect personal statement whether you’re applying for an entry level business sales executive position or looking for your next challenge as a business development manager.
Architecture Personal Statement
In your architecture personal statement you need to prove that you are able to collect and interpret technical data. You’ll also need to highlight your experience with architectural design software like AutoCAD or Revit. It’s also a good idea to show a willingness to work closely with clients and contractors.
This template includes relevant terminology and typical architecture career pathway copy, saving you time as you create the perfect architecture personal statement. It will give you all the tools you need to move on from the planning phase to build your future career in architecture.
Teaching assistant Personal Statement
Teaching assistants face a unique set of challenges, depending on the school, age group of the students and class size. Having the right credentials is important, but recruiters also want to find the right personality fit.
Our teaching assistant personal statement can be adapted for junior, senior and college or university roles. As you go through the template you will find everything you need to complete your application quickly, and jump start your teaching career.
Politics Personal Statement
The key values and manifesto of your chosen political party will have a significant impact on how you word your personal statement. But don’t dilute your own perspective and values, or sell yourself short. Remember to incorporate your own personal experience on key political issues.
Our politics personal statement will help you strike the right balance. Showing how you can support existing initiatives, as well as how you bring your own passion to the table. We’ll help you to create a personal statement that will prove you have what it takes for a career in politics.
Chemical engineering Personal Statement
Make it easy for recruiters to establish your relevance for the job. To do this effectively, your personal statement should highlight your degree, HNC, or BTEC.
You should also showcase your relevant experience, whether that's performing plant audits, running Cadex and non-Cadex projects or controlling engineering maintenance.
We have a chemical engineering personal statement to suit you whatever your experience level. They will give you a head start with industry terminology and popular requirements that can be customised for you, setting you apart from the competition.
Occupational therapy Personal Statement
Recruiters won't waste time with candidates that don’t meet essential requirements. This personal statement highlights relevant HCPC or RCOT registration and DBS checks right away.
Don’t forget to include examples of relevant risk management experience with neurodevelopmental or learning disabilities.
Our template includes everything you need to share with recruiters. It will help you create a compelling personal statement that will put you at the top of the shortlist, even if other candidates have similar credentials.
Teacher Personal Statement
You probably have a good idea of the type of school and age group you want to teach, but finding the right job can be difficult. To get noticed, your personal statement needs to highlight your experience but also show that you are passionate about the job.
Do you have lesson planning experience? An understanding of the key stage in question or curriculum guidelines? These are all things we can help you establish in your teacher personal statement, helping you create a compelling paragraph that motivates recruiters to read on.
Civil engineering Personal Statement
Civil engineering is a highly skilled job. What you include in your personal statement can vary hugely depending on whether you are applying for a job in the public or private sector.
The good news is that there is some common ground across disciplines, including analytical thinking, critical thinking, technical skills, leadership qualities, negotiation skills and strong communication.
Your game may be to conceive, design, and build infrastructure, but writing compelling personal statements is very much in our remit - so let us guide you.
Marketing Personal Statement
There are so many marketing disciplines it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts. As an aspiring marketer you will need to be able to write great promotional content, so what you write in your personal statement needs to impress.
You can adapt our marketing personal statements whether you’re applying for an internal role or agency side. They also include popular dialogue relevant to a range of marketing roles, including digital marketing, SEO, CRO and email marketing.
We’ll help you create a compelling personal statement by guiding you to draw out specific projects that are likely to impress.
Customer service Personal Statement
Customer experience has become an increasing focus for brands. Customers now interact face-to-face, as well as share their experiences on online platforms. This shift also means that hiring the right people to look after their customers has become even more important.
In addition to your experience, your personal statement should focus on portraying your passion and personality fit. It’s a powerful vehicle to get you on that shortlist, and our customer service personal statement will help you dig deep to find examples that validate your potential.
3 Common Questions UK Jobseekers Ask About Personal Statements
Trying to get your personal statement right can be overwhelming and many jobseekers come up against the same challenges. The three common questions about personal statements are:
1. Do you include a personal statement in a CV?
Yes, you must include a personal statement in your CV. Why?
- Not having one gives recruiters and great excuse to move on.
- Done well, it will inspire recruiters to actually read your CV.
- It’s a good opportunity to apply more context to your listed experience.
- It will help you highlight key projects and success stories early.
- It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your culture fit with your personality.
2. How do you write a CV personal statement?
Write a CV personal statement by being succinct and focused on what makes you right for the job. Remember:
- Third person will help you seem less boastful or arrogant.
- Keep it short, between 50 and 200 words maximum.
- Include an element of personality so they get to know you.
- Be intriguing enough to persuade recruiters to read your CV.
- Summarise who you are and why you’re right for them.
3. Where should your personal statement be on your CV?
Don’t be tempted to mix things up and change the location of your personal statement. Your personal statement should be:
- The first thing recruiters see.
- Below your name and contact details.
- Above your work experience.
Why Your CV’s Personal Statement is So Important
Despite the common perception that recruiters spend 30 seconds skimming through CVs, research actually revealed that recruiters only spend an average of 6 seconds. That doesn’t give you much time to make an impression.
An while an average of 118 people apply for any one job, only 20% of these applicants actually get an interview. When you look at this way you can see why previous applications may not have passed the bar if you didn’t include a well-crafted personal statement.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you are applying for jobs without much success, and it can be tempting to start copying and pasting your way through applications. But it’s a habit that you need to nip in the bud if you want to get noticed in that pile of 118 CVs.
Think of your personal statement like that first episode test when you start a new TV series binge. It has to grab your attention quickly, or you won’t invest the time. One of the best ways to do that is to put in the extra time and care into your personal statement.
- Keep it short and snappy (between 50 - 200 words).
- Include unique phrasing, and customise it for each job.
- Include ambitious goals and relevant key successes.
- Use this opportunity to help them understand who you are.
- Include keywords that were included in the job description.
Your CV should be more than just a list of experience and skills. It should represent who you are and summarise how your experience directly relates to the job at hand.
The personal statement is your opportunity to shine and get a recruiter’s attention. Get it wrong and your CV won’t get read. Get it right and recruiters will actually read your whole CV, giving you a much better chance of making it to the interview phase.
9 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your Personal Statement
Many people struggle to write about themselves in a personal statement. In fact, one study even suggested that putting ourselves out there professionally makes us feel ‘dirty’, literally. The study concluded that:
Networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual’s moral purity."
But a psychologist advised it can be done - as long as you don't relay your accomplishments in a way that sounds like bragging.
Struggling to highlight our strengths without bragging can lead to mistakes. Here are some of the most common mistakes that UK jobseekers make when writing their personal statements:
1. Leave the statement off altogether
There is conflicting advice on personal statements and some people believe they are not always necessary. This is probably because many jobseekers don’t know what a personal statement should look like.
This also presents you with an opportunity to get it right and stand out. Even if you opt for a short summary, having a personal statement at the top of your CV better than leaving it off.
2. Not pay attention to length
There are several reasons the length of your personal statement is important. Too short, and you are underselling yourself or seem lazy. Too long, and you run the risk of being ignored or struggling with the two-page rule for your CV.
Your personal statement is a small paragraph that should be between 50 - 200 words. Use what you need to get the message across - but don’t be tempted to pad it out with unnecessary detail just to make it to the full 200 words.
3. Try to be funny
Many people use humour to cover their nerves or insecurity. It’s something that could serve you well at the interview stage (within reason) but your personal statement is not the place to do this.
It may look like you're not taking your application seriously or the office joker who is easily distracted and less productive. This doesn’t mean you can’t be creative or express your personality, but save the banter for your mates at the weekend.
4. Forget to use spellcheck
If you’re preparing a high volume of applications or excitedly rushing to apply for a great job you might hit that send button a little too early.
In reality, the person reading your application is looking for a reason to move on. It doesn’t matter how impressive you are, one typo or spelling error gives the recruiter a great excuse to dump your CV and move on to the next candidate.
5. Fail to focus on keywords outlined in the job description
This is one of the most common errors, and it applies not just to your personal statement, but your entire application.
Recruiters and employers are often dealing with an inbox full of applications and will spot a duplicated copy and paste job a mile off. If you don’t spend the time customising your application then you give the impression that you’re just applying for anything and everything.
It’s simple really. If you really want the job, take that extra time to customise your application by using the keywords outlined in the job ad.
6. Introduce information that isn’t in the CV anywhere else
Talking about an academic or volunteer experience you haven’t included in your list of experience or education is a big no-no. This could make the recruiter question your honesty and struggle to understand your professional journey.
Your personal statement should highlight specific projects or successes from existing listed experience or education on your CV. Any random additions that don’t relate back to your CV should be avoided.
7. Lie, or stretch the truth
This is a big no-no. Recruiters are very experienced at spotting dishonesty. They won’t hesitate to skip past your application if your personal statement is more ambiguous fluff than substance.
Even if you get to the interview phase, the truth will always be revealed. Even if you do manage to cover it and actually get the job, eventually the lie will catch up with you. None of these scenarios are good for you in the long term: honesty is always the best policy.
8. Copy someone else’s personal statement
What works for one person won’t work for you, so don’t be tempted to copy your friend’s personal statement. Chances are if you are copying someone else’s personal statement they are applying for similar roles, and you have no guarantee what they have written is a successful approach.
Our personal statement examples are created so you can adapt them to be unique, so there’s no risk of the same one landing in the recruiter’s inbox.
9. Use clichéd or stock phrases
Recruiters are dealing with hundreds of applications and have seen it all. No matter how good the latest hit single may be, if you hear the same song over and over again you are going to grow tired of it. The same applies to overused stock phrases, which include:
- Team player or good with people
- Work well ‘under pressure’
- Best of breed
- Results driven
- Highly qualified
Any blanket terms or overused phrases like this should be avoided if you want to avoid your CV being cast aside out of frustration.
Build Your Perfect Personal Statement
Everyone is different, so why should all of our job applications be the same? If you’ve been applying for jobs without much success, then it really is time to get personal. It’s time to take your CV to the next level and make it stand out with a professional personal statement.
A personal statement should:
- Be a small paragraph, 50 - 200 words.
- Be customised for every single job application.
- Help recruiters quickly understand why they should read on.
- Include relevant keywords that recruiters will be scanning for.
- Be written professionally, use short sentences and be easy to read.
Still looking for inspiration? Take some advice from a seasoned recruiter:
People love stories, so tell them a story. It also makes it easier for others to remember you later on. It’s proven that our minds remember details better when there’s a story or association attached to the subject. In other words, if you want people to remember you, tell them a story, and make sure it’s a good one." -Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director, Robert Half
Together we can help you find your story. Get started: head over to our CV builder to find a template that works for the industry or specific job you’re applying for. Then get help from out sample copy and tips to build your perfect personal statement.