Personal statement: Do’s and Don’ts

A personal statement is a professional piece of writing all about you. Your strengths, experiences and what you can bring to the table.

Usually placed at the beginning of a CV, it is often the first thing a recruiter will read about you. Therefore, your personal statement should grab your readers attention and convince them that your application is worth investing in.

To ensure you are sufficiently prepared for this essential part of CV writing, take a look at our do’s and don’ts for personal statements. 

1. Do keep it concise:

In a CV, personal statements are usually space-limited, not more than a couple of short paragraphs (around 200 words). Therefore, it is important to keep them concise, easy to understand and informative. 

Most students first write a personal statement when applying to universities. Although a personal statement in a university application is generally longer than those found within a CV, only a specific number of characters is allowed. Keep an eye on your word count to ensure you don’t exceed the required limit. 

Don’t worry if you write too much. Read through the statement carefully, shorten and rearrange longer sentences or remove anything you feel is not so important.

2. Do choose your words carefully

When writing a personal statement, try to use some powerful words with big impact. For example, talk about how you ‘successfully completed’, how you ‘delivered results’ or what you ‘experienced’. 

Use this opportunity to talk about what you have achieved and what you have learnt from this, as opposed to listing what you have done. This way, the recruiter can gain better insight into what skills you have and what you can bring to the company.

3. Do avoid clichés

To make the statement personal to you, avoid clichés. A recruiter probably sees hundreds of CV’s from candidates that are ‘great team players’. Instead of just stating this, given an example of where you practised this skill!

4. Do use the job description

The great thing about paying particular attention to a job description, is it will usually tell you exactly what the hiring manager wants to see from a candidate. To ensure you will be ticking all the correct boxes, refer to the skills and experiences mentioned here. Include them in some way, shape or form in your CV and definitely don’t forget to include some of them in your personal statement.

5. Don’t forget to use spellcheck

A personal statement should read well and be free from any grammatical errors. Make sure to stick to one font size, one font type and include commas and full stops as required. 

Its easy to confuse tenses when referring to past experiences and linking them to your present self. However, to ensure a smooth read, make sure to double check your using one tense only. 

6. Don’t include irrelevant information

 It is difficult enough to include all the essential information without all the added extras. Try and refrain from using irrelevant facts that don’t support the job role, quotes from people other than yourself (the recruiter wants to read all about you, not Gandhi) and even jokes. Not only does this distract the recruiter, it also wastes precious space. 

Avoid including lists that can already be found in your CV elsewhere. For example, your qualifications can be found under another heading in your CV, so unless you want to draw on some skills you learnt whilst studying, there is no need for you to list them again in your personal statement. 

7. Don’t lie

It is never okay to lie or exaggerate content for your personal statement. 

Plagiarism also exists in this category. Software is used by UCAS and other organisations to detect such copying and even worse, they will inform the universities or a recruiter of such behaviour. 

Stick to facts or statements that you can back-up with proof. Do not claim to have done anything you have not, as this may catch you out in the future!

8. Don’t be negative

Be specific about the things you can do and provide the proof. There is no need to include any negative information here as you are trying to sell yourself!

Focus on the things you can do well and that show you in the best light. 

Top tip: Once you have completed your statement, don’t forget to read it out loud. This is how it will sound to the recruiter and you may also hear mistakes you might not have seen before.

Post by Maryam Tashfeen.

Maryam Tashfeen was raised in North East England and is a fourth year medical student at Medical University Pleven, as well as a former student at the University of Bradford. She has previously held work-experience roles in a number of different countries, including England, Bulgaria and Jordan. Currently, alongside her studies she works within the retail sector and volunteers for a number of great charities. Through a combination of her personal journey as a student and her experience in the working world, she can provide you with great insight into all things relating to student life, jobs and careers.