How to Write a Personal Statement for Job Searching
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.
Read on for more information on how to write a successful personal statement that will further your job search.
Different Types of Personal Statements
A personal statement may be included within 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 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.
What Should You Include?
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 best team player. My projects release on time, and match requested specifications."
- Provide a bit of information on 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 for your personal statement is for it to further your job search.
Tips for Writing a Job Search Personal Statement
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 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 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.
Examples of Personal Statements
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 helps 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.
More Branding Statements for Job Searchers
Filling Out a Job Application
What You Need to Know About CVs
Writing sample tips for a job application
Many job ads today require candidates to submit writing samples. Don't stress out! Follow these tips instead.
Get your writing samples in order by following these guidelines.
In today’s competitive job market, applicants for many positions—even those not related directly to writing—are required to submit writing samples at some point during the interview process.
Don’t let this request stress you out, even if you’re not a strong writer. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about writing samples for a job that will help you develop and/or select just the right samples.
What kind of writing sample should I submit?
Follow any instructions the employer provides—that’s part of the assessment process, says Diane Samuels, a career coach and image consultant in New York City. “If you have any concerns, it’s best to ask questions,” she says. “It shows that you are proactive in seeking advice before moving too far ahead with an assignment, which in a real-life job situation can save time, money and energy.”
If the company doesn’t say what it’s looking for, whenever possible, send something “drafted specifically for this job opportunity so the subject matter and writing style closely match what you might be asked to write once on board,” says Sally Haver, a former senior vice president at The Ayers Group/Career Partners International, an HR consultancy in New York City.
For instance, if you’re going for a sales job, you might submit sales proposals or customer profiles. If you’re applying for an administrative gig, sample memos would be appropriate. Management applicants might consider submitting samples of competitive analyses, reports or HR plans.
If you have little or no work experience or are applying for an entry-level job, submit a school assignment. It’s also permissible to send schoolwork “if you have applied for a position where the style of writing will be similar to something you would have prepared for school,” Samuels says. A lab report would work for a scientific research gig. An assignment from a business writing class would be appropriate for a management-trainee job.
Are certain types of writing samples inappropriate?
It’s a bad idea to turn in a paper from school if you have been out of school several years. “It says, ‘I haven’t written for years,’” says Thom Singer, a business-development consultant in Austin.
Singer also cautions against sending blog posts (unless your blog is professional and addresses business or industry issues), as well as “creative writing or a letter to grandma.” These forms are ill-advised because they’re not cogent to the type of work you’ll be doing if hired.
How long should a writing sample be?
Most employers seek employees who can synthesize large amounts of information into a short, concise, actionable summary. “Often a one-page memo is a more compelling example than a long term paper,” says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration. That’s because reviewers generally read just a page or two of a long paper, and are not concerned with the specific content, she says.
Can I submit a sample I co-authored?
A sample written with someone else may be appropriate if writing will be a collaborative effort at the job you’re applying for. Just make sure you list yourself as a co-author. But even then, a team-written piece shouldn’t be the only example you submit.
“The employer is seeking samples of your work, and can’t assume your role in a co-authored piece,” says Nancy DeCrescenzo, director of career services at Eastern Connecticut State University.
What about getting a little help with a writing sample?
It’s considered OK to have someone else review your submission for basic errors and clarity. Beyond that, though, and many employers feel the work is no longer representative of your skills and knowledge.
“If you’re really not much of a writer but your sample is great, that’s what they’ll expect of you when hired,” Haver says. “Unless you can keep your ghostwriter handy, that stratagem can boomerang.”
Should I take any special precautions with my samples?
When submitting a writing sample from a previous job, take extra care to keep confidential information confidential. “Mask or delete names, numbers and any other identifying markers from writing samples so the prospective employer will still be able to see the quality of your writing and thought processes but without learning privy information,” Haver says. Alternatively, you could make up a company name and change the type of business and geographic location, she says.
Sarikas offers one final angst-reducing tip: “Have a couple of samples prepared in advance so you don’t have to scramble to find or create something at the last minute.”
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