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How to write a powerful personal statement

Posted by Louisa Benedicto, Hays VP of the GTA, on Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018

How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement | Hays BlogWe love talking about ourselves. How much? According to studies like this one from Harvard University [pdf], we feel more motivated to talk about ourselves than any other subject. 60-80 percent of what we say during a two-way conversation is focused on ourselves. So why do we struggle to channel that self-interest when writing a personal statement on our resume? Primarily fear of failure. So let’s talk about how to overcome it and write a powerful personal statement.

Why is your personal statement so important?

Your personal statement is your elevator pitch: it’s the first thing a hiring manager reads on your resume. Understandably, it has a huge impact on whether they choose to keep reading, and whether or not you get invited for that all-important interview. The problem is, that pressure to perform can lead to writer’s block.

Below are some approaches to overcoming that barrier. From a look at structure, to what you can include, and a list of important dos and don’ts, here’s how to beat the block. And to illustrate these points, I’ve included excerpts of personal statements from several players of one of our Official Recruitment Partners – the Manchester City Women’s FC.

Follow this structure

You can break your personal statement structure down into three parts, covered below. This structure lets you include all the key information a hiring manager or recruiter needs, and lets you tell the story of your career in a concise, compelling way.

We’ll use Steph Houghton’s personal statement to start us off:

1: Introduce yourself

The first thing you need to tell someone reading your resume is who you are and your level of experience. In the example below, Steph gets straight to it in her introduction. By avoiding clichés and vague statements, her opening is strong and clear:
“Steph Houghton is the Captain of both Manchester City Women’s team and the Women’s National Team. With over 15 years’ experience in the game, Steph has enjoyed a hugely successful footballing career to date.”

2: List your skills and achievements

Next, outline your key skills and achievements that set you apart from the competition. Keep this section relevant by identifying desired skills and attributes outlined in the job description so you can have your skills highlight those points and make sure your personal statement mirrors them. As with:
“Steph is an extremely driven, talented, and versatile professional footballer, who has successfully honed her leadership skills on and off the pitch.”

Then go on to provide evidence of your skills through specific results or accolades. Again, keep it related to the key requirements of the position:

“Her hard work and determination saw her awarded an MBE in 2016, becoming one of the most-recognised faces in women’s football and she is now widely regarded as one of the most influential female role models for the sport.”
3: Explain your goals

Finish by outlining your career ambitions – ideally linked to the role in question. Hiring managers need to know that your goals are a good fit for the opportunity and that you’ll be driven to succeed:
“Looking to this season, Steph is relishing in the opportunity to drive forward the success of Manchester City Women as they look forward to the FA WSL Spring Series.”

Additional Tips and Tricks

The structure above is a good starting point. But you also need to be careful when drafting your personal statement that you bear in mind the methods below for making your personal statement stand out. These tips will help strengthen the quality of your writing and keep it focused and engaging.
Use relevant action verbs

The simple trick of using active terms like those below brings your achievements to life:

  • To demonstrate creativity: built, crafted, devised, implemented, pioneered, initiated, established.

  • To demonstrate efficiency: enhanced, advanced, capitalised, maximised, leveraged, improved.

  • To demonstrate leadership skills: headed, coordinated, executed, managed, organised, led.

  • To demonstrate improvements made: refined, remodelled, strengthened, upgraded, transformed.

  • To demonstrate management skills: guided, fostered, motivated, recruited, enabled, united.

  • To demonstrate bottom line contributions: reduced, decreased, saved, yielded, increased.

  • To demonstrate overall achievements: awarded, exceeded, outperformed, surpassed, earned, granted.

In bold below, look at how Carli Lloyd uses action verbs on her resume:
“Carli has enjoyed an impressive footballing career to date, being awarded such accolades as the FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and FIFA Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.
Carli trains tirelessly from season to season and has built a reputation for her control, technique, and passing accuracy. With a total of 96 international goals to date, she is relentlessly focused on improving every aspect of her game, and her unwavering enthusiasm, commitment and self-belief is infectious. A household name in America, Carli prides herself by leading by example on and off the pitch.”

Differentiate between proper nouns, common nouns, and which needs capitalizing

Proper nouns refer to specifics – organization names or job titles – and you need to capitalize them. Common nouns refer to groups or non-specific referents, and you don’t have to capitalize them. Let’s look at Lucy Bronze’s personal statement as an example, again with bolding:
“Lucy Bronze is a highly skilled international footballer (common noun, not capitalized) who plays for Manchester City Women in the FA WSL (multiple proper nouns, all capitalized).”
Be consistent with your perspective

Decide on either first person or third person perspective, and stick to your choice. Shifting between the two does not look good on a resume. The different choices are presented below:

“The first female footballer ever to be shortlisted in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Lucy plays/I play primarily as a right back, however, as a hugely versatile player, she can play/I can play anywhere in the defense or midfield.”

Proofread your writing

Attention to detail is critical when preparing your resume. You’re trying to prove that you’re thorough while putting your best foot forward. You need to demonstrate that in every level of your resume. So make use of free proofreading tools such as Grammarly, and get somebody you trust to read over your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. My colleague Jane McNeill provides some excellent further advice on avoiding errors in your resume.

Keep your personal statement to 150-200 words

Brevity is your best friend. The structure above should produce a quick, easy read for a hiring manager or recruiter. But, if you find yourself writing over 200 words, take a look at everything you’re including. If any of the skills or achievements you’re highlighting don’t link back to the job requirements in some way, cut them.

Your personal statement is your chance to sell the core aspects of who you are as a candidate, particularly your expertise, level of experience, achievements, and goals. Keep it simple and concise and don’t overstay your welcome. A personal statement is an introduction – you’ll have time enough to expand on what’s in your resume once you get the interview. Want some help lining that up, or still seeking the perfect job to prepare your personal statement and resume for? Contact Hays today and let us help you find your dream job.

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