18 November 2011

A personal statement (objective, profile, waste of good printer ink, etc) is the paragraph that goes at the top of your CV.

It can make the difference between someone shouting 'This is the greatest person in the world and we must hire him/her on a massive salary immediately' and them going 'Meh' and using your CV to line the cat litter tray.

So it's really important.

What you should know

Some people like personal statements. Some people hate them. And it's hard to find out if the person hiring for your dream job falls into the first or last camp.

If you know someone at the company, or the even the person doing the hiring, for goodness' sake, make the most of your connection and find out what his/her opinion is on personal statements. That will give you a head-start over other job-seekers straight away.

If you don't know, and you're going to include a personal statement, you must make sure it doesn't suck.

The golden rule

There is one rule that you must stick to when writing your personal statement: ALWAYS view it from the point of the recruiter. Almost nobody does this and that is why so many people hate personal statements.

Here are some common phrases from personal statements, and how a  recruiter might respond.

  1. I am a hard-working individual
    I'm glad you said that, otherwise I'd assume you're a slacker who watches videos of cats all day and abuses the company's free coffee policy.
  2. Good team player / good at teamworking
    This is a vitally important skill in all jobs except being a hermit. So every other person in the world has stuck this in their personal statement too. Yawn.
  3. Good communication skills
    See above. If your communication skills were that good, you'd find a different way of phrasing it.
  4. My aim is to...
    Well my aim is to go jet-skiing with Orlando Bloom in the Caribbean, it still ain't gonna happen. Aims don't mean anything, I want to see what you've actually done.

So where to start?

Look at the rest of your CV. Your personal statement should always be written last so you can pull out key achievements from your employment history. If you haven't got any achievements, you need a professional to rework your CV - everyone has achieved something useful. Except possibly the Kardashians.

Key things that recruiters care about are any ways in which you've helped the company make more money than it has spent. So this could be anything from bringing in new business, to making improvements in efficiency. Even if  you're not high up in the hierarchy, your job and achievements will have made a positive impact somewhere. It's up to you to highlight this.

What else should I put?

Obviously if you've done anything remotely out of the ordinary you should put that here. Like taking a career break for example. As well as showing recruiters all the stuff you've learn, it also shows that you've got more initiative and confidence than the next person - and of course, it explains any gaps in your CV straight away.

What about my career objective?

This is only important as far as it fits in with who the company is looking to hire for this specific job - which means you must tailor it for each job you apply for. It's no good having a generic 'I am looking for a role where I can use my background in rare cactus cultivation' if the job is investment banker.

Right, I think I've got it, now what?

Show it to your best friend and your worst enemy. Your best friend will tell you what's good about it, and your worst enemy will criticise it (hopefully some of this criticism will be constructive). Seriously, it doesn't have to be your worst enemy, just someone who can be relied upon not to just tell you the good stuff.

It's also helpful to show it to a friend or acquaintance who hires people as part or all of their job - they will have seen hundreds of these. Another useful person is someone in the industry you're looking to work in - or even someone who is doing the job you want.

Word of advice - don't be shy about asking for help. Most people are only too keen to give a job-seeker useful advice over a cup of coffee - especially if you're buying!

Good luck!

And let us know how you get on.