Personal statements

The purpose

The purpose of a personal statement is for recruiters to understand you and your suitability for the job or course that they are offering and not because they want to make things difficult for you.  It is an opportunity for you to present your goals, experiences and qualifications in the best possible light as well as demonstrating your written communication and other skills. From your point of view the main purpose of a personal statement is to make your application stand out against all the others.

You may be asked for a personal statement as part of an application for a postgraduate course, or as part of a job application form.

Preparation

  • Research the company or organisation using resources such as: the company/organisation website, news articles or social media. For more information about how to best research and improve your commercial awareness.
  • Thoroughly read through and research the role or course you are applying for.
  • Identify aspects of the role or course that are most important to you.
  • Check the word or character limit (if applicable) as this will indicate how much the employer is expecting to read. Do not go over – most online forms will automatically cut your answer off.
  • Read through any guidance provided by the employer or institution and ensure you follow the instructions.

Planning

Based on the information you have gathered, when planning consider the following:

  • How does the job or course link with your career ambitions?
  • What differentiates this job and company to you from its competitors?
  • What interests you about the field of work/study?
  • What relevant skills/experiences do you have that will help you be successful in this line of work?
  • What difficulties have you overcome and what skills did you use in order to do so?
  • Why should you be chosen above the other applicants?

Writing your first draft

Make sure that your statement has a clear structure, so that recruiters can easily recognise what parts of the job application you are addressing. We suggest using a structure similar to the one below.

Opening

Start with a strong introductory paragraph about why you want the position that will grab the reader's attention. This can be what makes your application unique.

Middle section

Provide details of your interests, knowledge and experience that are relevant to the job and your application to show you can do the job or course. Try to provide recent and relevant examples and ensure you use these examples to evidence the competencies that required for the opportunity. Try to use no more than two or three paragraphs. 

End section

Summarise your suitability and motivation for the job or course and demonstrate what particularly attracts you to this employer or course provider. Do not include any new information in this section.

  • Try to make your statement unique. Be clear and concise and try to avoid using long sentences
  • Carefully tailor your personal statement to the job or course you are applying for. Copying & pasting from another application will tend not be very successful. As with cover letters, if you could substitute the name of the employer, organisation or course provider for another, then you have not tailored your statement sufficiently.

Proof-reading and amending

After all the time and effort you have spent developing your personal statement, it would be a shame to submit it before you have proof-read and thoroughly checked it through. To make absolutely sure, get someone else to read it – the best of writers miss mistakes in his/her own work due to familiarity with the text.