Writing a CV is pretty tough isn’t it? And no part of it is worse than putting together your personal statement. Please sum up your entire career so far in just a few short lines – because that makes sense!? Well actually it really does. Let us show you why, and learn how to grab a potential employer’s attention.
Lessons from Hollywood
They say that a film director proves their worth in the opening few minutes of a movie. If the viewer is captivated early on, then they’ll probably stay that way for a while. If not well, too bad. Don’t believe us? Think of some classic movies – Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Matrix – they all have pretty awesome opening scenes, don’t they?
Why should your job application be any different to a Hollywood blockbuster? What we want to do here is pull your recruiter in, get some hooks in them and keep them reading until the dramatic plot twist at the end of your CV (ok, not quite, but you get the gist).
Show, don’t tell
The primary purpose of your opening statement is to help the reader understand what it is that you can bring to their business – and to do this as quickly and as easily as possible. In this context, the old writer’s maxim of ‘show, don’t tell’ has never been more apt.
The thing is that anyone can write ‘able to work effectively alone or as part of a team’ – it’s a meaningless statement (as well as a total cliche). Wouldn’t it be better to demonstrate these skills to an employer with some examples? This way a nasty cliche becomes a story – because ‘I recently won an award for bravery after single-handedly fighting my way into a captured missile base and helping a team of elite special forces operatives get in through the back door’ just sounds better doesn’t it?
Keep things in perspective
If you do some reading on this topic, you’ll see that advice on which perspective to write your personal statement in varies, but that the general trend seems to be towards writing in the third person. Feel free to try out writing in the first person if you want, but we’d advise staying away from the second, because well it just doesn’t work in this context – as you’ll see from the examples below. The key thing here is to choose one perspective and stick to it – don’t be swapping halfway through.
First person perspective (I, me, my):
‘I make an excellent pirate, because I love to drink rum and I’m good with a cutlass’.
Second person perspective (you, your, yours):
‘You make an excellent pirate because you love to drink rum and you’re good with a cutlass’.
Third person perspective (they, their, hers/his):
‘Excellent pirate, with a love of drinking rum and good skill with a cutlass’.
A question of length
Again, if you’ve had a look around, you’ll have seen that there’s no real consensus on how long your opening statement should be. Some people give a word count – others give a line count – but seldom do two sources offer the same advice. What this indicates is that nobody actually knows the answer – and we’re certainly not about to pretend that we do.
What we will say on the matter though, is that your writing needs to get straight to the point and be readable. No waffling and no fluff. In order to make it more readable, ensure that you split it into paragraphs when necessary, and make sure that they’re no longer than about five or six lines each at most.
If you’ve got room on your CV, you could also change the spacing of your initial statement to make it stand out more – 1.5 spacing works quite well here. If you have no idea how long it needs to be, then as an extremely rough guide, we’d aim to make your statement around 100 words long – but this can vary a lot depending on how much you have to say. 100 words should at least give you a decent-sized paragraph to work with as a starter.
Divide and conquer
Like anything, you’ll find your personal statement easier to write if you split it up into its component parts. To make things even easier than that, we’ve done it for you. So essentially, there are three main things that it needs to tell the person reading it:
Who are you? What’s your background and what qualifications do you have? Remember to keep this relevant and succinct.What can you bring to the job in question? Remember to demonstrate any key qualities – it’s no good just claiming that you can do things.What are your long-term aims? Are you looking to become the best in the world at your current job role, or are you someone who wants to progress through the ranks?
Give it some polish
One of the most important things when writing just about anything – but especially a CV – is to ensure that your spelling and grammar are spot-on. This isn’t the easiest of things if you don’t write for a living, but it will help you to project an image of professionalism and intelligence.
Always get someone to proof-read your work. Even if they aren’t the world’s best writer, they may still spot something. It’s also worth bearing in mind that many of the recruitment agencies on our site offer professional CV advice or editing as part of their service – so they’ll be able to help you out if you want to get things perfect.
As we’ve shown, the summary section of your CV is perhaps the most important, as it will allow you to make a killer first impression to whoever’s reading it. With this initial work done, you might then want to look at some more of our CV writing tips to ensure that the rest of your CV matches up – after all, they’ll hopefully be reading on. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to give this article a share if you liked it!