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How To Write a Personal Statement for Job Searching
Madeleine Burry writes about careers and job searching for The Balance. She covers topics around career changes, job searching, and returning from maternity leave, and has been writing for The Balance since 2014.
Different Types of Personal Statements
What you should include, tips for writing a job search personal statement, examples of personal statements.
Kiyoshi Hijiki / Getty Images
What's a personal statement, and why do you need one when you're job searching? A job search personal statement is a place to share why you're interested in a position and why you're a good match.
In your statement, you can get a bit personal—use the space to share details and insights about yourself, and forge a connection with potential employers. Here are some tips on how to write a successful personal statement that will further your job search.
A personal statement may be included in your curriculum vitae or CV. Much like an in-person elevator speech or the summary section within a resume, a CV personal statement highlights your objectives and abilities. Since a CV may stretch over several pages, this allows you to showcase must-see details from within the document. You'll want to write just a few sentences for a personal statement in a CV.
Or, you may need to write a personal statement as part of a job application. This helps hiring managers to separate out candidates applying for every job in a category (e.g., putting in applications for any "production manager" position) from more engaged candidates, who are interested in the company.
Write something that matches the application's requested word count; if one isn't provided, aim for 250 to 500 words. Regardless of where it appears, your goal in a personal statement is the same: try to connect your background and goals with the job at hand.
In your personal statement, you want to make a connection between yourself and the position. Think of this as a three-part process:
- Share Some Details About Yourself: Who are you? You may say things like "Highly seasoned production manager" or "Recent graduate with honors."
- Highlight Your Most Relevant Experience and Talents and Share What You'd Bring to the Company: Think: "Strong, speedy writer capable of crafting ad copy that engages and enchants." or "In my years as a project manager, I've never let a detail slip; I've won internal awards for the best team player. My projects release on time and match requested specifications."
- Provide a Bit of Information About Your Career Goals: For instance, "Looking for a staff writer position" or "Eager for placement in a mid-sized firm as an audit supervisor" or "Seeking a position as a production assistant to further develop my skills in television and put my time management abilities to the test."
While it's called a personal statement, avoid over-sharing. Only include information that's relevant to the job at hand. That is if you're applying for a position as an accountant, no need to mention your goal of becoming a staff writer at a magazine.
Remember, the main goal of your personal statement is for it to further your job search.
Your personal statement should always be personalized—it's a mistake to reuse the same personal statement for every job you apply for. You don't need to write the personal statement from scratch each time—just make tweaks so it reflects the needs of the company and the qualities requested in the job description.
Here are more tips for writing a successful job search personal statement:
- Know Your Audience: Target your personal statement to a specific job position and company. Spend a bit of time researching the company to get a sense of what they're looking for in a candidate. Decode the job description so you understand the company's needs in a candidate. Take notes on where your qualifications are a good match for the position.
- Make Some Lists: What have you done that employers should know about? Make a list of your accomplishments (and keep in mind that while splashy awards are important, so too is reorganizing a chaotic system that gives everyone hives to make it user-friendly). Brainstorm a list of your talents as well as your soft, communication, and general skills.
- Go Long on Your First Draft—Then Cut It Down: Hopefully, your time spent thinking about the company's needs and what you have to offer has given you plenty of fodder to get started writing your personal statement. At this point, don't worry about length; write as much you want. Then, go back and edit—aim for a few sentences for a CV and around 250 to 500 words in an application. Cut unnecessary words and clichés that don't add meaning. Instead, use action verbs . While it's fine to write in the first person, avoid overusing the word "I." Try to vary the composition of sentences.
- Make It Targeted: You have lots of skills and interests and work experience. What you want to emphasize in one position is not necessarily what you want to highlight in another. If you are qualified as both a writer and an editor, choose which talent to call out in your personal statement—and make it the one that's most relevant to the job you want.
Here are some examples of personal statements to use as inspiration:
- I'm a seasoned accountant with CPA and CMA certification and more than 10 years of experience working in large firms. Oversaw audits and a department of ten. My positive attitude and detail-oriented spirit help ensure that month-end financial wrap-ups go smoothly and without any inaccuracies or fire drills. Looking for a leadership role in my next position.
- Recent college graduate with freelance writing experience at major print magazines as well as online outlets and the college newspaper. A strong writer who always meets deadlines, and matches the company tone and voice. In search of a staff writer position and eager to learn the magazine trade from the ground up.
- I'm an award-winning designer in children's clothes looking to make the transition to adult athletic year. At Company X, I developed a new line for toddlers and traveled to Asia to oversee production. I'm a fast learner and am eager for a new challenge in the growing field of athleisure.
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Examples of Successful Statements
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Media File: Examples of Successful Statements
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My interest in science dates back to my years in high school, where I excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. When I was a senior, I took a first-year calculus course at a local college (such an advanced-level class was not available in high school) and earned an A. It seemed only logical that I pursue a career in electrical engineering.
When I began my undergraduate career, I had the opportunity to be exposed to the full range of engineering courses, all of which tended to reinforce and solidify my intense interest in engineering. I've also had the opportunity to study a number of subjects in the humanities and they have been both enjoyable and enlightening, providing me with a new and different perspective on the world in which we live.
In the realm of engineering, I have developed a special interest in the field of laser technology and have even been taking a graduate course in quantum electronics. Among the 25 or so students in the course, I am the sole undergraduate. Another particular interest of mine is electromagnetics, and last summer, when I was a technical assistant at a world-famous local lab, I learned about its many practical applications, especially in relation to microstrip and antenna design. Management at this lab was sufficiently impressed with my work to ask that I return when I graduate. Of course, my plans following completion of my current studies are to move directly into graduate work toward my master's in science. After I earn my master's degree, I intend to start work on my Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Later I would like to work in the area of research and development for private industry. It is in R & D that I believe I can make the greatest contribution, utilizing my theoretical background and creativity as a scientist.
I am highly aware of the superb reputation of your school, and my conversations with several of your alumni have served to deepen my interest in attending. I know that, in addition to your excellent faculty, your computer facilities are among the best in the state. I hope you will give me the privilege of continuing my studies at your fine institution.
(Stelzer pp. 38-39)
Having majored in literary studies (world literature) as an undergraduate, I would now like to concentrate on English and American literature.
I am especially interested in nineteenth-century literature, women's literature, Anglo-Saxon poetry, and folklore and folk literature. My personal literary projects have involved some combination of these subjects. For the oral section of my comprehensive exams, I specialized in nineteenth century novels by and about women. The relationship between "high" and folk literature became the subject for my honors essay, which examined Toni Morrison's use of classical, biblical, African, and Afro-American folk tradition in her novel. I plan to work further on this essay, treating Morrison's other novels and perhaps preparing a paper suitable for publication.
In my studies toward a doctoral degree, I hope to examine more closely the relationship between high and folk literature. My junior year and private studies of Anglo-Saxon language and literature have caused me to consider the question of where the divisions between folklore, folk literature, and high literature lie. Should I attend your school, I would like to resume my studies of Anglo-Saxon poetry, with special attention to its folk elements.
Writing poetry also figures prominently in my academic and professional goals. I have just begun submitting to the smaller journals with some success and am gradually building a working manuscript for a collection. The dominant theme of this collection relies on poems that draw from classical, biblical, and folk traditions, as well as everyday experience, in order to celebrate the process of giving and taking life, whether literal or figurative. My poetry draws from and influences my academic studies. Much of what I read and study finds a place in my creative work as subject. At the same time, I study the art of literature by taking part in the creative process, experimenting with the tools used by other authors in the past.
In terms of a career, I see myself teaching literature, writing criticism, and going into editing or publishing poetry. Doctoral studies would be valuable to me in several ways. First, your teaching assistant ship program would provide me with the practical teaching experience I am eager to acquire. Further, earning a Ph.D. in English and American literature would advance my other two career goals by adding to my skills, both critical and creative, in working with language. Ultimately, however, I see the Ph.D. as an end in itself, as well as a professional stepping stone; I enjoy studying literature for its own sake and would like to continue my studies on the level demanded by the Ph.D. program.
(Stelzer pp. 40-41)