With employers taking on average 8.8 seconds to scan a CV, it’s really important that your personal statement stands out and you understand how to sell yourself effectively.
Lis McGuire, Professional CV Writer and Founder of Giraffe CVs says “Your personal statement is one of the most important elements of your application. Sitting at the top of your CV, it’s your chance to convince the reader to give your CV their time and attention.”
Some application forms, including university applications, require a more in depth personal statement, often up to two pages, and a different approach is required. For this guide we’re focusing on the personal statement on your CV.
Table of contents
Part 1: What is a personal statement?
Part 2: Writing a personal statement
Part 3: Personal statement examples
Part 4: Personal statement do’s and don’ts
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement, also known as a personal profile, summarises what you can offer an employer in relation to the job you’re applying for.
“It needs to convince your audience that you’re a good fit for the role in hand” says McGuire, Founder of Giraffe CVs.
Senior HR Business Partner at Amazon, Lucy Ventrice agrees “It’s your opportunity to sell yourself and highlight what sets you apart from others”.
The personal statement shouldn’t be confused with a supporting statement, which is similar to a cover letter.
The functional, chronological or hybrid styles of CV all require a personal statement.
Writing a personal statement can be challenging.
You have to condense your experience and skills into a few sentences.
The advice in this guide will help you produce a first class personal statement on your CV.
Writing a personal statement
Recruiters and employers like personal statements as they can easily see if you are a match in skills, experience and attitude to their job.
With over 100 applications for some vacancies this is a brilliant time saver. Recruiter will only read the rest of your CV if you’re personal statement signals you’ll add value.
You need to be able to sell yourself succinctly in your personal statement to stand out from the crowd.
Sharon Xenophontos, Senior HR Manager at Macfarlanes LLP sees it as “an opportunity to summarise your unique selling points and allow employers to quickly read ‘between the lines’ of your CV.”
Lucy Ventrice, Senior HR Business Partner at Amazon agrees “in a very competitive market you must focus on what experience, skills or attributes you have that would benefit a future employer?”
How long should a personal statement be?
Sharon Xenophonotos, Senior HR Manager at Macfarlanes LLP recommends you “use proper sentences, a short paragraph of two to three sentences should be sufficient”.
Sally Whiteside, Head of HR for Tesco Online agrees “It should be short and sharp, representing your tone of voice to set you apart”.
Remember, the personal statement is a summary. You can expand on your successes elsewhere in your CV.
How to structure a personal statement
A personal statement should answer the question “why are you the best person for the job?” says Lucy Ventrice Senior HR Business Partner at Amazon.
She suggests “Start with a mind map. Put yourself in the middle and [write down] your experience, skills and attributes. Do the same with the future employer in the middle, what are they looking for in the job advert? Then compare the two and build from there.”
McGuire, a Professional CV Writer adds “while it may seem logical that your personal statement should be all about you, to be effective, it should be about your target employer and how you can meet their needs”.
Break this down into:
- Number of years of experience in the field.
- What specialist or transferable skills can you offer?
- What areas of expertise do you have?
- What relevant industries have you worked in?
- What personal qualities relevant to the role can you offer?
- Do you have any relevant qualifications or interests?
- The answers to these questions will determine the structure of your personal statement.
Sally Whiteside, Head of HR for Tesco Online agrees “The statement should be structured around your history of achievements, linking them all together to tell a compelling story of what it would be like to work with you and what value you will add to the company.”
How to start a personal statement
While introducing yourself in a career summary format, your opening sentence needs to “hook your reader, compelling them to read the next sentence, and the next” says McGuire, Founder of Giraffe CVs.
The opening sentence of your personal statement should include:
- Your job title.
- Number of years’ experience.
- A particular expertise you have.
- Active positive words or verbs.
Example personal statement opening
Innovative Project Manager (Prince II Practitioner and Certified Scrum Master) with over 5 years’ experience managing complex IT projects for a FTSE 100 company operating across the UK, Europe, India and South Africa.
How to end a personal statement
There are two ways to end your personal statement.
Senior HR Manager at Macfarlanes LLP, Sharon Xenophontos, finds it helpful if candidates let employers know what they are looking for. “It’s all part of the matching process” she says.
If you’re at a relatively early stage in your career state your career goal. Remember, your stated must relate to the role you’re applying for.
Example personal statement ending – entry level
My career goal is to gain responsibility for leading on a project and managing delivery successfully, actively contributing to achieving the business goals.
If you’re a bit further along in your career, state more specific goals and why you’d like to work for the employer.
Example personal statement ending –career developer
Hoping to join an innovative and dynamic company, and develop my social media and marketing skills further.
What should I include in my personal statement?
Here we’ve listed what to include in your personal statement, and what not to include.
Include in the personal statement
- Very little! Be concise. 150 words maximum. “Lengthy blocks of text are a turn off when you have a huge stack of CVs to get through” adds McGuire.
- Skills that are specific to the job. A good example would be ‘skilled in taking client briefs and presenting findings to stakeholders’. Avoid generic statements such as ‘possess good communication skills’.
- Skills that make you stand out from all the other applicants. Think about the unique value you can bring to the employer.
- Evidence of how your skills, competencies and experiences match the requirements set out in the job description/advert. “Think of examples that help to bring what you’re saying to life” adds Ventrice.
- Language, lingo and vocabulary comparable to that used by the employer in the job description, their website, their social media channels. Doing this will go a long way to showing that you’re a good fit for the organisation.
- The basics of good writing; “keep it simple, no jargon, correct grammar, avoid duplication.” says Ventrice.
- Your passions, as long as they’re relevant. For example, if you’re passionate about the environment and are applying for a job in a sustainability organisation it can help you stand out.
- “Your immediate career objective” says Xenophontos. It helps the employer understand why you’re applying.
Don’t include in the personal statement
- Uninteresting and uninspiring phrases. “Using clichés that could describe anyone in any role at any level is a big turn off” says McGuire.
- Generic statements that you use for every job you apply for. Employers won’t be impressed if you don’t take the time to tailor your personal statement to their job.
- Exaggerations or embellishments. Once you get to interview any untruths will be discovered.
- “Lists of unsubstantiated adjectives and “buzzwords” says Xenophontos. She recommends you “concentrate on what genuinely differentiates you from other candidates”.
- Negative language. Your personal statement needs to be a buoyant and positive introduction to you.
- Personal information. There’s no requirement to let an employer know your marital status or how many dependants you have.
- Disjointed statements. “You can’t rely on the fact the reader will join the dots between what you can offer and the results you can deliver for them; spell it out” recommends McGuire.
Personal statement examples
Since every personal statement is about one particular individual’s suitability for working for one particular employer, every personal statement should, in theory, be unique.
But we know getting started on a personal statement can be tough.
To help, we’ve curated some practical personal statement examples for you to base your personal statement on.
Half are for people in specific career stages / circumstances. Half are industry-specific. Use the links to jump to the one that suits you best.
Career stage / circumstance personal statements
Your current career stage or circumstance will have a major impact on both your employability, and how to present your employability in your CV.
We hope you can build upon the following sample personal statements to give your best representation of yourself in your next job application.
Industry-specific personal statements
Your skills, competencies and goals will be shaped hugely by the industry you work in. Accordingly, so will your personal statement.
We hope you’ll be able to find inspiration from one or more of the following sample personal statements as you write your own.
Unemployed personal statement
It’s important to carefully manage your unemployed status in your job application.
Our first piece of advice is to play down the fact you’re unemployed. Or, in other words, don’t write anything to highlight it.
Focus on the skills and experience you’re bringing to the role and the difference you can make.
Employers may wonder how up to date you are. You can address this head on in your personal statement by highlighting volunteering, attending training courses or reading trade journals or blogs to stay aware of industry trends.
Don’t worry too much about the gap on your CV. These days, employers are more understanding. After all, there are countless reasons why people become unemployed, for example redundancy or caring for dependants.
Unemployed: Sample CV template and guide
Unemployed personal statement example
Successful Sales Manager with over eight years’ experience in the Telecoms industry. Proven track record of success, including leading the top performing team in the region, and developing a sales training programme for all new staff. Now looking for the right opportunity to bring my skills to a dynamic IT software company in a management position.
School leaver personal statement
School leavers worry they don’t have anything to put in a personal statement.
Jon Gregory, Editor of Win that Job.com, who advises parents and teenagers to find work, has this advice:
“Employers are usually not recruiting school leavers for knowledge or experience. They want to understand why you’re interested in a particular job. If you ‘care about the environment’ or perhaps ‘love working with animals’, it’s that relevant individuality that counts.”
Gregory adds “Talk less about what you want and more about what you can give in the future. Show you are positive, proactive, determined and in it for the long haul”.
Think widely about how your hobbies or interests could be relevant. Gregory recommends that “if you have employability skills developed from other work, projects or interests, use them to demonstrate your potential.”
First job: Sample CV and guide
School leaver personal statement example
Motivated and enthusiastic student with a passion for design technology, especially woodwork. I am interested in completing a construction apprenticeship in joinery, as I have always enjoyed making things. I am good at maths and confident when taking measurements and I recently won a school award for my chair design.
Graduate personal statement
When writing your first CV after graduating, Sue Moseley, Senior Career Advisor for London University recommends that you “think of your personal statement as the headline to your CV. A good headline grabs attention because it connects with something the reader cares about. So start with what the employer cares about and work from there”.
“Change your statement for each application even if it’s just a linguistic tweak to match the employer’s voice. If the job ad asks for ‘excellent customer experience’, using those terms in your statement will increase impact” she adds.
“The vital key to impact is evidence” she goes on to say “When an employer reads your statement, how do they know it’s true? Use examples and numbers, based on things you’ve done”.
Graduate: Sample CV template and guide
Graduate personal statement example
Customer experience: As a student ambassador I welcomed a group of 30 sixth formers and their families onto campus and received positive feedback about the clear and helpful way I handled questions.
Career change personal statement
Lis McGuire, Founder of Giraffe CVs says “show how your transferrable skills can be applied to your target career and convey energy, enthusiasm, and commitment ”. She adds “don’t fall into the trap of over-explaining yourself and the reasons for your transition”.
If you’re changing careers to move into HR, for example, highlight the relevant parts of your previous career such as people management, recruitment or inductions, training, and exclude the other less relevant areas of your roles.
Career change: Sample CV template and guide
Career change personal statement example
Experienced manager with 5 years’ experience in recruiting, inducting and training staff. Recently delivered change management and restructuring programme for two departments, sensitively managing redundancies and redeployments. Passionate about employee engagement and enabling staff to contribute fully to achieve business aims. Now looking for challenging HR role in the retail sector.
Career break personal statement
“When your CV lands on a hiring manager, or recruiter’s desk, the first questions they’ll have are, ‘Why did this person take a career break?’ and, ‘can they do this job?’” says Fay Wallis, Founder of Bright Sky HR Consulting. “Your personal statement is the best place to answer these questions and explain away any concerns” says Wallis.
She warns “don’t make your career break the focus of your CV though. Instead, make your experience and relevance for the role leap out at the person reading it”.
“Follow this with a brief reason for your career break. And end the personal statement with another reason that you are right for the role” Wallis adds.
Returning to work: Sample CV template and guide
Career break personal statement example
An experienced Communications Officer, with proven media relations, copywriting and proofreading skills within the voluntary sector. Looking to return to a communications role, following a career break to travel the world to experience other cultures. Recently qualified in social media management with a strong interest in working for a sustainability organisation.
Nursing personal statement
Julie Watkins, Careers Advisor at The Royal College of Nursing suggests that “your personal statement should include the kind of sector you have worked in, any relevant clinical fields and what you’re passionate about.” She goes on to say “this could include empowering patients to take ownership of their health and wellbeing or an interest in health promotion.”
Watkins adds “in the current fast paced environment of the NHS you must emphasise your resilience and flexibility.”
She also highlights “the need for a tailored personal statement, as it’s the one thing that will really make your CV to stand out in the health sector.”
Nursing personal statement example
Caring and efficient Nurse committed to safeguarding the medical needs and wellbeing of my patients and their families. Particularly skilled at building rapport with anxious patients and focused on providing a high standard of care that lead to improved patient recovery. Experienced in a number of specialist and complex fields including geriatrics, cardiac and maxillofacial. Excellent observational and record keeping skills to ensure continuity of care and team support. Looking to now develop experience in other clinical areas within a high performing Trust.
Midwifery personal statement
Lynne Pacanowski, Director of Midwifery at Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital suggests “identifying what you have learnt from working in different areas such as antenatal, community, labour ward, or from services such as midwife led or tertiary units, and use this in your personal statement.”
Include skills that will interest the Trust, for example, advising expectant mothers on diet, exercise and medications during pregnancy.
Pacaonwski recommends you “demonstrate that you understand the population of the area the Trust serves.”
She goes on to say “you can also highlight challenging situations you have been involved with, for example, difficult births, identifying when cesareans are needed, or supporting mothers with challenging home situations.”
Midwifery personal statement example
Professional, approachable and efficient Midwife committed to providing the best quality care and support for mothers and families throughout their pregnancies. Four years’ experience and a first honours midwifery degree from University of Liverpool. Extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of pregnancy including ante and postnatal nutrition, and supporting both low and high risk women in a hospital setting. Have experience in both medical and community midwifery, particularly with women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Recently trained in aromatherapy to support women mentally and physically during labour. Looking for a new position within a progressive Trust with a Birthing Centre.
Teaching personal statement
Jo Postlethwaite, Head Teacher of Somervale School, recommends that you get to know your target audience and says “Read everything you can about the setting. Read their vision statement. What can you say about yourself that shows you support this ethos?”
Secondly she recommends that you “Talk like a member of staff – spend a bit of time looking at the sort of language the establishment uses. Do they talk about pupils, students or children? Do they talk about ambition or aspiration? Ensure you use their words back to them.”
Additionally, it’s important to describe your teaching philosophy and enthusiasm for your subject.
Teaching personal statement example
Passionate Science Teacher striving to make a real difference to young people’s lives through engaging lessons matched to individual learning needs. Excellent behavioural management skills gained through vast experience of working in diverse academic settings. Experienced in developing lessons for a wide range of students. Now looking for a teaching role that offers more responsibility and management experience within a challenging and proactive school.
Teaching assistant personal statement
Jo Postlethwaite, Head Teacher of Somervale School, feels that “simple is best. Don’t over complicate what you write. This is your opportunity to summarise your good points. So, be succinct, but don’t forget to highlight how you work closely with teachers and parents as well as pupils.”
Postlethwaite often has 50+ applications to read through so she wants to see candidates “showing their ‘unique selling points (USP). But don’t be tempted to go for a ‘wacky’ colour or design as this can be off-putting.”
Finally, Postlethwaite recommends you “check your spelling and grammar, not just for your personal statement but your whole application. Errors in applications for teaching or support roles would end up on the ‘no’ pile.”
Teaching assistant personal statement example
A highly motivated Teaching Assistant with four years experience and a caring and supportive attitude. Through my recent studies in Early Childhood, I am up to date with developments in Early Years Care and Education, and have recent experience in Reception and Y1 classes. I have supported children with special needs and helped with behaviour management in the playground. Happy to support teachers with developing learning materials and displaying work, and am also comfortable communicating with parents and carers. Now looking to broaden my experience with Y2 and 3 children.
Accounting personal statement
Ex-Accountant turned Career Coach Diana Norris of Career Balance suggests that “you should think of your CV as the first report you will write for your new employer, and your personal statement as the executive summary. Your statement should show you can write succinctly and ensure your reader grasps the essentials of your argument.”
Norris goes on to add “anything you think an employer really needs to notice should be in your profile. If you’re fluent in another European language, and the organisation you’re applying to does business in the EU, don’t leave that information languishing at the bottom of the second page of your document.”
She also recommends that you “avoid over used phrases like “good team player”. She calls it ‘CV ‘blah blah blah’ language. Employers tend not to see it when they read a CV – their eyes slide over it.”
Accounting personal statement example
Experienced and qualified Accountant with a sound understanding of financial controls and processes. A strong commercial awareness combined with the ability to analyse and produce high quality management reports to tight deadlines. Specific experience of developing cost saving practices, budget management and forecasting within the retail and utilities sectors. Now looking to broaden experience specifically in an IT firm.
Marketing personal statement
Kate Kassis, Marketing Manager for Harrods has the following advice for would-be marketing executives: “Keep it concise and avoid unnecessary use of adjectives. Simple yet effective language skills are key to any marketing role.”
Kassis goes on to say: “Be honest. Don’t over-sell but, where possible, look to include a commercial angle. Creativity is key in Marketing but the ability to think strategically is even more important”.
When she’s recruiting, Kassis looks for something that tells her the applicant has the ability to ‘run with it’. This means working to deadlines, managing and presenting to stakeholders, delivering results and critically analysing.
Marketing personal statement example
Intuitive Marketing Executive skilled at increasing sales through diligent research and efficient resource allocation. Especially adept at managing complex projects while also developing key stakeholder relationships. Able to maximise profits whilst working within a tight marketing budget. Enjoy identifying client needs and delivering practical short and long term solutions. Now looking or a new role to develop my digital marketing skills.
Civil engineering personal statement
“A good personal statement should focus on three key themes – your postgraduate experience, including details of chartership; the range of technical skills you have developed; and how you apply these to consultancy” says Rob Delahunty, Associate Director at Webb Yates Engineers.
“You’ll really stand out to an employer”, says Delahunty, “if you can show how these themes transfer to the workplace. Highlight your ability to work within a design team with architects, contractors and other specialists; show how your specialist IT knowledge or skill for analysis was applied to project challenges; and demonstrate your experience in assessing the environmental or safety impact of a project.”
Delahunty recommends: “Include any licences, industry accreditation, security clearances and certification you have, as they establish you as a recognised professional in the industry.”
Civil engineering personal statement example
An ambitious and highly motivated Civil Engineer with strong practical and technical skills, consistently finishes commercial and residential projects under budget and on schedule. Sound knowledge of designing, testing and evaluating overall effectiveness, cost, reliability, and safety of a design. Advocates for environmentally-conscious design and cost-effective public infrastructure solutions. Currently seeking a challenging professional position within a cutting edge engineering practice.
Customer service personal statement
“Convey your enthusiasm for the role as employers are looking for staff who will represent them and their brand in a positive way. Highlight if you won any awards or suggested a change that benefited customers in some way” suggests Amanda Reuben, Experienced Fashion & Retail Brands Recruiter and Founder of Bijou Recruitment.
Reuben wants to see a number of personal qualities displayed in a Customer Service personal statement. She says, “you want your candidate to be friendly, warm and engaging whilst also remaining calm under pressure.” She also recommends that you show how you have managed customer expectations or dealt with difficult situations.
Think what you associate with the brand or company – are they fast paced and focused on efficient service, or do they like you to take time with customers. Show you understand and can support their approach.
Customer service personal statement example
A well-presented, patient and friendly Customer Service Advisor with a proven track record of building relationships by providing information on additional products and services and helping customers find the right ones to meet their needs. A genuine ‘can-do’ attitude demonstrated through a number of staff awards, and an excellent telephone manner combines to contribute to the growth of any business. Trained in effectively resolving customer complaints and now looking for a suitable position to take on more responsibility and expand retail experience.
Economics personal statement
For your personal statement to stand out, Dr Chris Sherrington, Head of Environmental Policy and Economics for Eunomia, an independent consultancy recommends you “show creativity in the way you’ve approached problems. This is important as there can be subject areas within specialist fields where outcomes can’t easily be quantified.”
He goes on to say “also show how you’ve offered relevant advice based on sound economic principles, and where you’ve successfully made the best use of the data that’s available.” This could be in a report you’ve produced or some analysis you’ve delivered.
Economics personal statement example
Proactive Economist with 5 years’ experience in both public and private sector, and specific expertise in healthcare trends. Extremely skilled in market trend analysis, financial modelling and business planning, having delivered a comprehensive management report on a proposed outsourcing opportunity. Enjoy developing productive industry and internal relationships to increase understanding of business needs and economic impact. Now looking for a role to further develop my strategic planning skills within the environmental sector.
Personal statement do’s and don’ts
- Do sell yourself and highlight what sets you apart from other candidates.
- Do make it relevant. Tailor it to the job you are applying for.
- Do be succinct. Max 150 words or 2-3 sentences.
- Do use a career summary format showing what you have to offer.
- Do make it engaging. It needs to be interesting to read.
- Do be specific. Avoid generic phrases that everyone uses.
- Do show some passion, as long as it’s relevant.
- Do make it about the employer. Show how you can do their job.
- Do include number of years experience, specialist skills and expertise, relevant industries and personal qualities.
- Do have a strong opening sentence to ‘hook’ the employer to read on.
- Do end your statement by letting the employer know what you are looking for.
- Do show you’re a good fit. Pay attention to the language used by the employer.
- Don’t make spelling or grammar errors.
- Don’t be negative about yourself or a previous employer.
- Don’t exaggerate or embellish what you can do. Be honest.
1. Pick a topic you’re passionate about.
Your writing will be both easier and more genuine if you write about what you want to write about, instead of writing about what you think colleges want to hear. The most successful essays describe a moment of personal growth, difficulty, strength, or confidence, all of which people experience in vastly different ways.
If you are serious about your college essay, you will most likely be spending a fair amount of time brainstorming, writing, and editing until you make it as near perfect as possible. Understandably, this process will proceed quicker if you actually enjoy the topic you are writing about.
More importantly, if you love the topic you choose, your reader will see it in your writing: the more passion you feel for a subject, the easier it will be to express yourself. So if your greatest personal growth story occurred as you were picking out socks for the day, so be it. Perhaps you managed to find courage on a stage in front of two thousand, or maybe just two people.
Remember that this is your personal statement, your only chance to differentiate yourself as a unique individual to colleges apart from grades, test scores, and resumes. Write about a topic that excites you, and you will excite your reader.
2. Engage your reader from the first sentence.
Regardless of the topic you choose, your reader’s interest must be captured in the first sentence. Out of thousands of essays, why should yours stand out? A perfect introduction will leap out to the reader and grab their attention.
The best way to do this is through as much detail as you can muster. If you have chosen a sport or activity you excel in, show your reader through your words a split second of what participating in the activity is like. Write as if you are telling a story: what was the setting? What was the weather like? Were there other people there? What emotions were coursing through you at that exact moment?
Many students will begin their essays, “The most life-changing/important/difficult moment in my life has been___.” Over time, admissions officers will lose steam over the constant repetition, and all essays that begin as such will fail to make an impact.
Make it easier for your reader to remember you by writing a story as your introduction. The more specific detail you add in, the more the reader will get into the story and the more sold they’ll be on you.
3. Ask yourself “So What?”
As with any good essay, you should spend at least a paragraph explaining the “so what?” aspect of your essay. If you have chosen a specific activity to write about, in addition to writing about the activity itself, colleges want to know why this particular activity has made an impact on your life.
So you’ve been playing baseball for the last ten years, so what? Perhaps playing baseball taught you teamwork, or made you appreciate the value of practice and determination in achieving your goals. As this is a college essay with a point to make about your character, a substantial portion of your essay should answer the “so what?” question.
Colleges want to know how you have grown as a person through your own experiences and how they have changed you, and stating why such experiences were important to you aid in convincing admissions officers that their school could use more students like you.
If your detail and story-like aspect of your essay comes at the beginning, your “so what?” moment should wrap up your essay, connecting your activity in question with the purpose behind your choice of topic.
4. Read through your essay out loud.
It goes without saying that you should spell-check your essay before sending it off to colleges. As your personal statement is one you will presumably be using for the majority of your college applications (if your colleges use CollgeApp), there is no excuse for sending off an essay that is not completely free of mechanical and grammatical errors.
In addition to the automatic spellcheck on Microsoft Word, set time aside to read over your paper out loud. This will allow you to catch things your mind might otherwise overlook; because you are able to hear any wrong grammar or sentence structure, you are less likely to skip over it.
It is also wise to ask for a second opinion: let your parents read it, your English teacher or your friends. Ask them to read it and tell you what they thought the central message they got out of it was; if it is the same message you were hoping to send to admissions officers, your essay has succeeded.
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