How to write a powerful personal statement (2022)

We all like talking about ourselves, at least according to studies like this one conducted by Harvard University. According to the study; we feel more motivated to talk about ourselves than any other subject, in fact, 60-80 percent of what the average person says during a two-way conversation is focused on themselves.
So, why is it that when channelling this self-focus into crafting a powerful personal statement on our CV, we can sometimes struggle?

Why is your personal statement so important?

Your personal statement is basically your sales or elevator pitch on paper. It is the first thing a hiring manager will read on your CV, and will, therefore, have a huge bearing on whether they choose to read on and ultimately invite you for an interview. Most job seekers are well aware of the power of a strong personal statement, and as such, many get writer’s block.

In this blog, I want to help you overcome these barriers, by providing you with a guide on how to structure your personal statement, what to include in this structure, plus a list of important dos and don’ts. I have also used the personal statements of some of the Manchester City Women players to bring my recommendations to life.

Follow this structure

The structure of your personal statement can be broken down into three parts, as outlined below.

By being aware of this structure and what should be included in each section of your personal statement, you can be sure to include all the key information the hiring manager or recruiter is looking for, whilst telling your career story in a concise way.

I have used Manchester City Women’s Steph Houghton as an example of how you would do this.

Part 1: Introduce yourself

The first thing a recruiter or hiring manager wants to know when reading your personal statement is who you are and what level of experience you have. As you can see from the below example, Steph gets straight to these facts in her introduction, while at the same time, avoiding clichés and vague information. This makes for a clear and strong opening statement:

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.

(Video) how to write an AMAZING personal statement for ANY university application.

Part 2: List your skills and achievements

Next, you must outline your key skills and evidence your key achievements which set you apart from the competition.

It is important that you keep this section relevant by identifying the desired skills and attributes outlined in the job description, and by ensuring that the skills highlighted in your personal statement mirror them.

“Steph is an extremely driven, talented and versatile professional footballer, who has successfully honed her leadership skills on and off the pitch.”

Now, go on to provide evidence of your skills through specific results or accolades. This list of career highlights will have the most impact if they are related to the key requirements of the vacancy and backed up by fact.

“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.

Part 3: Explain your ambitions for the future

Finish by outlining what you are looking to achieve next in your career, and make sure this links to the role in question. The hiring manager needs to know that your ambitions are relevant to the opportunity and that you would, therefore, be driven and likely 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.

Personal statement dos and don’ts to remember

Do: Include plenty of relevant action verbs

The simple trickof including the below doing-words will help bring your achievements to life on your personal statement:

  • To demonstrate your creativity, use: built, crafted, devised, implemented, pioneered, initiated, established
  • To demonstrate your efficiency, use: enhanced, advanced, capitalised, maximised, leveraged, improved
  • To demonstrate your leadership skills, use: headed, coordinated, executed, managed, operated, organised, lead
  • To demonstrate improvements made, use: refined, remodelled, strengthened, upgraded, transformed
  • To demonstrate your management skills, use: guided, fostered, motivated, recruited, enabled, united
  • To demonstrate bottom line contributions, use: reduced, decreased, consolidated, saved, yielded, increased
  • To demonstrate overall achievements, use: awarded, exceeded, outperformed, surpassed, earned, granted

The below example shows in bold where Carli Lloyd, player for Manchester City Women’s uses action verbs on her CV.

“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”.

Do: Know the difference between proper nouns, common nouns, and which should have a capital letter

Proper nouns will refer to something specific such as a certain organisation or job title, and will, therefore, need a capital letter. Common nouns will refer to a group of, rather than specific, organisation or job title, and so will not need capitalising. See below for an example:

(Video) THE BEST PERSONAL STATEMENT I'VE EVER READ (Cambridge University Example)

“Lucy Bronze is a highly skilled international footballer (common noun, no capital letter) who plays for Manchester City Women in the FA WSL (proper noun, capital letters)”

Do: Remember to proof read what you have written.

Attention to detail is important in most jobs, and typos on your CV will always work against you. Show that you are thorough and conscientious in your approach, by doing all you can to write an error-free personal statement. Make use of free proofreading tools such as Grammarly, and get somebody else to read over what you have written with a fresh pair of eyes.

Do: Keep your personal statement to 150-200 words

This should be easier to do now you know what to include and what to omit, plus how to structure your personal statement. However, if you find yourself writing over 200 words, take a second look and check all points can be linked back to the job vacancy and showcases why you are the right person for the job.

Don’t: Be inconsistent with your narrative

In your personal statement, you can use third person or first person narrative. I have highlighted in bold the different between the two. Just be sure to choose one over the other, and to keep this consistent from the beginning of your personal statement right up until the end.

“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.

The power of your personal statement is not to be underestimated. This is your chance to sell the core aspects of yourself as a candidate, particularly your expertise, level of experience, achievements and future ambitions.

If you follow the above advice and keep this information structured, tailored, substantiated, concise and well written, you will grab the hiring manager’s attention from the beginning and increase your chances of being considered for an interview. What’s more, once you are invited for an interview,you will be feeling more than equipped to answer their first question “so tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Have a look at the personal statements of Steph, Carli and Lucy and give it a go yourself.

(Video) how to write the PERFECT personal statement for top universities!!!

If you found this blog useful, you may also like the below advice when writing and updating your CV:

  • Why you should always tailor your CV – and how to do it


Author

Susie is Chief Operating Officer (COO) at UK Government Investments (UKGI). UKGI’s purpose is to be the UK government’s centre of excellence in corporate finance and corporate governance, working across government on some of its most interesting and complex commercial tasks.

In her role as COO, Susie works to ensure that the business has effective operational management, optimal organisational design, and that UKGI are able to hire, develop, manage and remunerate their people in the best way possible.

Prior to joining UKGI, Susie was Global Director for People and Culture at Hays Talent Solutions.

(Video) Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School
(Video) How To Write A POWERFUL Personal Statement

FAQs

How to write a powerful personal statement? ›

What makes a good personal statement?
  1. Explain the reason for your choice and how it fits in with your aspirations for the future.
  2. Give examples of any related academic or work experience.
  3. Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you're interested in.

What makes a powerful personal statement? ›

Tips for writing a strong personal statement

Write in your own voice: Use your own words to describe your qualifications to make your statement feel more personal and uniquely you. Keep it simple: Short sentences and simple language can ensure your personal statement is clear and effective.

How do you start a powerful personal statement? ›

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like 'when I was young…' They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

How do you write a killer personal statement? ›

University Applications: How to Write a Killer Personal Statement
  1. Firstly- don't wait to get started! ...
  2. Make a plan BEFORE you start writing. ...
  3. Know what's expected. ...
  4. Perfect the format. ...
  5. Let your personality shine. ...
  6. Show real interest in the subject. ...
  7. Tell them why should they choose you. ...
  8. Get someone to proofread your writing.
Oct 14, 2018

How do you write a good personal statement? ›

What a good personal statement looks like? ›

Take a look at James' tips on what you should include: Explain the reason for your choice and how it fits in with your aspirations for the future. Give examples of any related academic or work experience. Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you're interested in.

How do you sell yourself in a personal statement example? ›

Start with why you're the perfect fit for a place on your course. Mention the most important aspects of your relevant skills and experience early. Prove the points you've introduced – it's here you'd talk about your current and previous studies, your skills, and your work experience.

What is the best opening sentence for a personal statement? ›

'For as long as I can remember… 'I am applying for this course because…' 'I have always been interested in…' 'Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…'

How do you grab your personal statement attention? ›

Although you will discuss this in-depth in the main body of content, it's crucial to capture your reader's attention with a quick overview of why you're enthusiastic about your chosen course. That's why capturing the reader's attention by jumping straight to the point is key to starting a personal statement.

How do you introduce yourself in a personal statement? ›

Here are two easy, surefire ways to begin your introduction: A story about yourself. A story about someone else who affected you.
...
  1. Avoid Cliches. ...
  2. Use Active Voice. ...
  3. Use Strong Verbs (but appropriate verbs) ...
  4. Paint an Image. ...
  5. Keep the Story in the Introduction.
Jun 19, 2013

How do I make my personal statement flow? ›

For your essay to have a natural flow, use tense from your current perspective. Things that happened in the past should be in past tense ("During my shadowing experience, I went..."), and current experiences can be in present tense ("I continue to work as an EMT...").

What makes a good personal statement for university? ›

Tell the reader why you're applying – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education. Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you've gained from education, work, or other activities.

What should you not say in a personal statement? ›

7 Things to Avoid in Your Personal Statement
  • Whining. Don't whine in your essay! ...
  • Someone else is the hero. ...
  • Reads like a resume. ...
  • Lack of focus. ...
  • Leaves out personal growth. ...
  • Overcomplicated language. ...
  • Incorrect grammar or spelling.

What do Oxford look for in a personal statement? ›

We typically suggest that you focus around 80% of your personal statement on your academic interests, abilities and achievements. This can include discussion of any relevant extra-curricular activities. The remaining 20% can then cover any unrelated extra-curricular activities.

What makes the first sentence a strong opening for this introduction? ›

What makes the first sentence a strong opening for this introduction? The writer uses creativity and humor to engage the reader. The writer ponders childhood to stir up the reader's memories. The writer introduces the topic immediately to inform the reader.

Do universities read personal statements? ›

Every personal statement will be read by someone to check that the applicant is applying for the right course” explains PQ. “Many applicants don't do the basic research and assume that a similar course title means similar course content”.

What is a good personal summary? ›

Your personal statement should include a brief overview of who you are, your strengths and any work experience and/or education you've got. Be sure to include skills you've gained, such as time management, customer service, teamwork, computer skills etc.

How do you talk about strengths in a personal statement? ›

3 Essential Components of a Personal Statement.
...
4 Tips for Highlighting Your Strengths in Your Application Essays
  1. Show the steps you've taken. ...
  2. Provide examples of strengths and skills. ...
  3. Offer relevant, compelling details whenever possible. ...
  4. Tell a story that reveals your strengths.
Feb 13, 2020

How do you structure a personal statement? ›

Personal statement structure
  1. Reasons for choosing this subject(s)
  2. Current studies and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  3. Experiences and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  4. Interests and responsibilities and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  5. Your future after university.

Should I start my personal statement with a quote? ›

Begin your personal statement with your own voice, not a quote from a famous person. Epigraphs – aka quotes – aren't nearly as interesting to admissions tutors as what you've got to say yourself.

How long should my personal statement be? ›

Often, however, there will be little or no direction provided, simply a request for a statement. A general rule of thumb you might follow is to submit a 2-3 page statement, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, in 12-pt. Times New Roman font.

Do you say your name in a personal statement? ›

THE HEADING FOR YOUR STATEMENT

In the absence of any guidelines provided by the graduate school, your heading should include the name of the document you are submitting (e.g., “Personal Statement”), the school and department for whom you are writing it (e.g., “Ohio University College of Education”), and your name.

What are universities looking for in a personal statement? ›

A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college. It's a chance for you to articulate why you'd like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.

What makes a good personal statement for college? ›

The personal statement is generally your opportunity to speak to your unique experiences, qualities, or beliefs that aren't elsewhere represented on the application. It is a chance to break away from the data that defines you on paper, and provide a glimpse into who you really are.

How do you structure a personal statement? ›

Personal statement structure
  1. Reasons for choosing this subject(s)
  2. Current studies and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  3. Experiences and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  4. Interests and responsibilities and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  5. Your future after university.

Videos

1. How to write a PERSONAL STATEMENT for university or college
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2. 12 tips to write an AMAZING personal statement.
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3. How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement (Med School, Dental School, Etc)
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4. HOW TO WRITE A WINNING PERSONAL STATEMENT!
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5. Writing Amazing Personal Statements | CareersLab
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6. 10 Tips on how to write a powerful personal statement | Studying in UK | Episode 4
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