Whether you’re just leaving school, college or university and looking for your first job, or you’re more mature and looking to move on and enhance your career, preparing a good CV is essential.
Certain parts of a CV are easy to put together – your personal information, details of your education and qualifications, work experience etc. Yes, I know, you might have to think carefully about how to describe previous jobs so that they demonstrate that you’ve got the experience required for the new position you are applying for. But that’s not too hard.
But one thing which many people struggle with is the ‘personal statement’. These days everyone is encouraged to put a ‘Personal Statement’ at the beginning of their CV but it can have pitfalls. When I’m recruiting for Advisors for our Student Services department you’d be surprised how many people just include meaningless ‘waffle’ in their personal statement. They put things like this:
"I am a dynamic person who enjoys achieving personal goals. In addition I have good teamwork and communication skills."
Right! What exactly does ‘dynamic’ mean here? They might like ‘achieving personal goals’ but will those goals fit in with what the company needs? And you would expect anyone to have good teamwork and communication skills. After all, put simply, all this means is that they can get on and work with people – the very minimum you would expect from an employee.
Let’s have a look at one that’s even worse:
"I’m a dynamic and intelligent person who feels they have the knowledge and skills to help any business prosper."
Sounds like boasting to me! Plus it doesn’t tell the reader anything concrete about the person. I’d probably stop reading at that point and hit ‘delete’. So what should you be aiming to include in your Personal Statement?
According to the University of Kent Careers and Employability Service it should:
Be no longer than six lines – some sites suggest a maximum of four lines. It must be short and positive with your key strengths, skills, experience and interests. It is meant to be an appetiser rather than to give the employer indigestion! The time to elaborate and give evidence for these is later in the CV.
Be placed at the start of the CV… the object is to give a concise introduction to your aims and skills. Start with a short description: “A highly motivated graduate who has just completed a Law degree at the University of Kent”.
Analyse your core strengths. A profile is a sales tool: a concise summary of why they should take you, so you should include brief details of your major selling points, especially those that are important in the job you are applying to.
So there you have it – how to use (not abuse) the chance you have to impress a prospective employer with your skills and make sure that your application goes on the ‘possible’ pile rather than in the waste paper bin!