Everyone knows that first impressions matter. So consider what the first impression of your CV is for the recruitment person in your favourite ethical organisation when they open your job application.
One way to make a great first impression is to open your CV with a 'personal statement' (also called a 'summary statement') – a short summary of who you are that shows your potential employer why you’re a great match for the job.
It’s a little like the 'trailer' of your career before the reader watches the full feature film.
And like a lot of things in your CV, it should be updated for each new job you’re applying for so that it matches that role’s specific selection criteria and the organisation’s needs.
So how do you condense a lifetime of experience and a pitch for how perfect you are for a role into just 50-200 words? The trick is to break the statement down into three sections:
Who you are?
When explaining who you are to a potential employer it’s important to highlight your relevant experience so that they can see exactly how your core skills will fit with the role they’re recruiting for.
For example if you’re applying for a disability job you might say:
“As a recent graduate of an Advanced Diploma of Disability, I’m a passionate disability worker with experience as an intern at disability service organisations including Independence Australia and Centacare.”
This statement clearly shows that not only are you qualified for the role but that you also have some industry experience.
What you can bring to that organisation/role?
This is where you should mention any unique or specific skills you have or provide details of experience you’ve gained through past roles, for example:
“I have a number of years experience as a carer for a young person with autism. As an intern at Independence Australia I gained additional experience working with young adults with an intellectual disability, as well as developing successful working relationships with other staff and parents.”
What is your career goal?
Make it clear exactly why you want this role by showing that your career goals match what the organisation is looking for:
“I am passionate about disability service, and I’m excited to begin a career in a not-for-profit disability organisation that will allow me to grow personally and professionally.”
A few more tips
As well as following the above format here are some other quick tips to help write a winning personal statement:
- Stick to first-person perspective using words like 'I' instead of referring to yourself in the third person – this makes it more personal and direct. But also think about ways to begin the statement that aren't 'I . . .' as this can make your statement read like a list.
- Keep it short and to the point – between about 50 and 200 words.
- Keep it punchy and informative – if you think there are more detailed or interesting things to say about your career that don’t quite fit in the personal statement, save them for your cover letter.
- Read your profile out loud to make sure that it makes sense and flows well.
Do you already have a personal statement as part of your CV? We’d love you to share some tips in the comments below!
Other posts you might be interested in:
Recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume before they make the initial decision on candidates, according to research conducted by TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals. That means you have to win them over fast.
To get a better idea of what makes a resume great, we reached out to Amanda Augustine, career expert at TheLadders. She created an example of an excellent resume and allowed us to share it.
While resumes should be tailored to the industry you’re in, the one below offers a helpful guide for entry- and mid-level professionals with three to five years of relevant work experience.
What makes this resume so great? Augustine outlines the following reasons:
1. It includes a URL to the jobseeker’s professional online profile.
If you don’t include URLs to your professional online profiles, hiring managers will look you up regardless. Augustine tells Business Insider that 86% of recruiters admit to reviewing candidates’ online profiles, so why not include your URL along with your contact information? This will prevent recruiters from having to guess or mistaking you for someone else.
2. It uses consistent branding.
“If you have a common name, consider including your middle initial on your resume and online professional profiles to differentiate yourself from the competition,” says Augustine. For example, decide if you’re Mike Johnson, Michael Johnson, or Mike E. Johnson. Then use this name consistently, be it on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.
3. It includes a single phone number and email address.
“Choose one phone number for your resume where you control the voicemail message and who picks up the phone,” she advises. The same rule applies to an email address.
4. It does not include an objective statement.
There’s no point in including a generic objective about a “professional looking for opportunities that will allow me to leverage my skills,” says Augustine. It’s not helpful and distracting. Ditch it.
5. Instead, it includes an executive summary.
Replace your fluffy statement with an executive summary, which should be like a “30-second elevator pitch” where you explain who you are and what you’re looking for. “In approximately three to five sentences, explain what you’re great at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to a prospective employer,” Augustine says.
6. It uses reverse chronological order.
This is the most helpful for recruiters because they’re able to see what you’ve been doing in recent years immediately, says Augustine. “The only time you shouldn’t do this is if you’re trying to transition to another career altogether, but then again, in this situation, you’ll probably be relying more on networks,” than your resume, she says.
7. It uses keywords like “forecasting” and “strategic planning.”
Many companies use some kind of screening process to identify the right candidates. You should include the keywords mentioned in the job posting throughout your resume.
“Identify the common keywords, terminology, and key phrases that routinely pop up in the job descriptions of your target role and incorporate them into your resume (assuming you have those skills),” advises Augustine. “This will help you make it past the initial screenings and on to the recruiter or hiring manager.”
8. It provides company descriptions.
It’s helpful for recruiters to know the size of the company you used to work for, advises Augustine.
“Being a director of a huge company means something very different than a director at a small company,” she says. You can go to the company’s “About Us” section and rewrite one or two lines of the description. This should be included right underneath the name of the company.
9. It does not list achievements in dense blocks of text.
Recruiters receive so many resumes to scan through at a time, so make it as easy as possible for them to understand why you’re perfect for the job. Dense blocks of text are too difficult to read, says Augustine.
10. Instead, achievements are listed in three bullet points per job.
Under each job or experience you’ve had, explain how you contributed to or supported your team’s projects and initiatives.
“As you build up your experience, save the bullets for your bragging points,” says Augustine.
11. It quantifies achievements.
“Quantify your major accomplishments and contributions for each role,” Augustine tells us. This can include the money you saved or brought in for your employer, deals closed, and projects delivered on time or under budget. Do not use any more than three to five bullet points.
12. Accomplishments are formatted as result-and-then-cause.
A good rule is to use the “result BY action” sentence structure whenever possible. For example: “Generated approximately $US452,000 in annual savings by employing a new procedure which streamlined the business’s vendor relationships.”
13. White space draws the reader’s eyes to important points.
Recruiters do not spend a lot of time scanning resumes, so avoid dense blocks of text. “The key is to format the information in a way that makes it easy to scan and recognise your job goals and relevant qualifications,” Augustine tells us.
14. It doesn’t use crazy fonts or colours.
“Stick to black and white colour,” says Augustine. As for font, it’s best to stick with the basics, such as Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri.
15. It does not include pronouns.
Augustine says you should never write your resume in third person because everyone knows you’re the one writing it (unless you go through a professional resume writing service).
Instead, you should write it in first person, and do not include pronouns. “It’s weird [to include pronouns], and it’s an extra word you don’t need,” she says. “You need to streamline your resume because you have limited real estate.”
16. It does not include images.
“Avoid adding any embedded tables, pictures, or other images in your resume, as this can confuse the applicant-tracking software and jumble your resume in the system,” says Augustine.
17. It doesn’t use headers or footers.
It may look neat and concise to display your contact information in the header, but for “the same reason with embedded tables and charts, it often gets scrambled in an applicant tracking system,” says Augustine.
18. Education is listed at the bottom.
Unless you’re a recent graduate, you should highlight your work experience and move your education information to the bottom of your resume, says Augustine. Never include anything about your high-school years.
19. It doesn’t say “references upon request.”
Every recruiter knows you’re going to provide references if they request it so there’s no reason for you to include this line. Again, remember that space on your resume is crucial so don’t waste it on a meaningless line, Augustine tells us.
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