Thursday, August 11

Your CV personal statement: the hidden pitfalls

Two column CV on a desktop next to a coffee mug

Your CV personal statement goes at the top of your CV, after your name and contact information.

This small but important section can be called by a range of different things: personal profile, objective, and so-on – but whatever you call it, it has the same purpose. The personal statement is a few lines in which you tell the employer how you meet their requirements and why they should pick you.

It’s important to note: Although ‘personal statement’ is possibly the most common phrase used, it’s not the same as your university application personal statement that you likely sweated away over for many a late night (see for example, personal-statement-examples.com).

Why include a personal statement?

Before we can discuss the pitfalls you first need to understand the reasons for including your personal statement and how they relate to your CV and interview selection process.

It is very common for job-seekers to include this section at the beginning of their CV.

Including an personal statement section at the beginning of your CV provides a brief introduction to the purpose of the CV, highlighting the best parts of your career (with reference to the job you’re applying for) and the type of job you are seeking.

“The personal [statement] is essentially a snapshot about you that should excite and entice the employer to want to pay closer attention to your CV.”: James Corbin for Prospects.ac.uk

The section can be an important part of a CV, and might be the first thing employers looks at. Therefore you should put considerable thought into constructing focused and clear personal statement.

What to include

You may have heard that this section is all about your objectives but that’s simply not true. Your objectives are just one part of the picture.

“Employers need to see how your experience, knowledge and skills sets match the job advertised. They may not always be able to make a connection so you must make it clear for them. If you have a list of person specifications and role responsibilities, ensure you refer to as many as possible.”: ThatShakerOfSalt.com

You need to include:

  • A summary of who you are (relevant to the job specification)
  • A summary of how you meet the job specification
  • Your objective

Consider that the job advert is for an Accounts Assistant with “experience using Xero and prior bookkeeping experience (minimum 3 years experience)”.

You might write:

“I am an Accounts Assistant with 4 years’ experience and a competent user of Xero and Sage Accounting.”

Imagine that the role is in Leicester, part time and can include some home work. You might add:

“Based within easy commute of Leicester Centre, I am seeking a part time role either office or home based.”

Here are some other example objectives:

  • I am seeking an elementary education teaching position with upward mobility to a principalship.
  • I am seeking a position in manufacturing operations and development which will utilize my acquired knowledge and collective experience.
  • I am seeking an auditor position in the public accounting field in the Philadelphia area.

You’ve covered the minimum requirements for the job, but lots of other candidates may also meet these requirements. So it’s worth adding in a line or two to help you stand out.

“I have a proven track record across a range of accounting tasks including accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll and month end/ reporting, with excellent references available. I have worked confidently both as a team and independently, assisting both SMEs and small firms.”

Avoid simply listing off fluffy words about what you CAN do. Instead tell them what you have done, and show them that you’re ready to back it up – for example, with portfolios / case studies / references.

“Fancy yourself as a guru, an innovator or a wizard in your job? In the world of recruitment, buzzwords signal fluff and no substance and will only help you to stand out for the wrong reasons. Instead, refer to the job advert to pick out a few role and industry-based keywords.”: Heat Recruitment

Doorway to the interview

What is a CV? Usually it is the first contact you have with potential employers. It is also where you list your skills and create a marketable presentation so that companies understand the benefits of employing you. Your CV is also the first (and possibly the last!) opportunity you have to persuade your prospective employer to give you an interview.

Clearly it is in your best interests to ensure your CV is compelling enough to leave the recruiter with no other option but to invite you to an interview.

Pitfalls of using a CV personal statement

You may have noticed that all previous references to personal statement focus on you and therein lies the pitfall !

Employers are not interested in what you want …

If your personal statement fail to match those of the employer, you will not even get to first base! So make sure you research the company and get to the heart of what the employer is really looking for.

A few experts feel that the CV personal statement section can be limiting to job seekers. It makes you be very specific as to your goals. This may be constraining if you want to be general and leave your options open. On the other hand, it would be advisable to skip the CV objective section rather than be too vague. An unfocused “fluffy” personal statement will put off many hiring managers. They may not end up looking at your experience and skills, which would of shown you to be a suitable candidate for the job.

Employers on average take a few seconds to look at a CV. The personal statement section is the first thing that catches their eye. If you have a specific objective written, for example to obtain a managerial position, the manager may pass on your CV if he was looking for some other position.

PROS

If you do include your CV personal statement, you should construct several different CVs, each specifically tailored to the job you are applying for. You will want to make your CV relevant to each job. The personal statement section may be the best way to create job specific CVs.

A draw back of not including the personal statement section is that a hiring manager may not be willing to search your CV to figure out your job objectives and goals… and may bypass your CV.

If you have a specific job position in mind and are clear about your personal statement, this section can be useful in informing potential employers about your reasons for applying.

Including this section has greatest benefits for career changers and recent college graduates. Your personal statement should be concise and to the point, to quickly inform employers about your background and goals.

Entry-level workers can state in their CV personal statement that they are recent graduates looking for positions in their particular field. They can include a brief summary of any transferable skills or experience.

Career changers should state how they can use their previously earned skills to make a transition into their new career. Make sure the rest of your CV is polished and follows CV writing best practice.

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