Ultimate guide to writing a graduate CV personal statement

When you submit an application to your dream job, how long do you think recruiters will spend looking at your CV? Go on, take a guess.

2 minutes? Maybe 10? Or even a generous half an hour? Nope — according to an eye-tracking study by The Ladders, you’ve got an average of 7.4 seconds to impress. Yep, you heard right. 7.4 seconds.

That means you need to capture their attention in a flash — and convince them that your CV is worth dedicating more time to.

So what’s the answer? A punchy, compelling and tailored personal statement, which tells them exactly why you’d make a great hire and leaves them feeling eager to find out more. Let’s take a closer look:

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What is a personal statement and why do you need one?

You might remember writing a personal statement for your UCAS application, but the one you’ll be writing for your job applications is a totally different ball game.

This type of personal statement should sit right at the top of your CV and give employers a snappy summary of what you can bring to the team and why you’d make a good fit for their company. It should discuss things like your degree, any relevant work experience you’ve gained, your skills and software knowledge, and maybe even a relevant side project or hobby.

You should think of your CV personal statement as a sales pitch. If you had to stand in front of your dream employer and convince them to give you a job, what would you want them to know? You’d try to convince them that you’ve got what they’re looking for and that you’ve got a genuine interest and passion for the sector. Well, that’s what you should do in your personal statement — just in written form.

It’s your one chance to make yourself stand out in an endless pile of applications. Remember, you’ve only got an initial 7.4 seconds to impress — use your personal statement as an opportunity to draw recruiters in and convince them to read the rest of your CV.

Graduate CV personal statement: The golden rules

Match yourself up to the target role

You could write the most flawless and persuasive personal statement to have ever existed — but if the information is irrelevant to the job you’re applying for, it still won’t make an impact on employers.

The key to the perfect personal statement (and CV as a whole) is to match yourself up to the position as closely as you can. You can do this by carefully reading through the job description and making a note of the key skills, experience and other qualities that the employer is looking for. Then, use your findings to inform the content of your personal statement.

For example, if the employer is specifically looking for a graduate with hands-on experience of content writing, you might mention writing for the University blog or share a link to your personal blog’s URL. Or, perhaps their main requirement is a 2:1 or above degree in a STEM subject? Well, you’d make sure your 1:1 degree in Maths is the very first thing you mention.

Keep it short and snappy

Your personal statement should only act as an introduction — if it’s too long, you’re more likely to lose the attention of busy recruiters. Stick to high-level, summarised information only.

An ideal length is around 8-15 lines. Make sure every sentence is short, sharp and to-the-point to keep the tone exciting and punchy — waffle is a personal statement killer!

Clichés are a no-go

Every other student and graduate claims they’re a “hardworking team-player who always gives 110%” or a “dynamic and driven professional with an entrepreneurial spirit”. Sure, the statement might be totally accurate, but think about it from a recruiter’s perspective — they don’t actually have any reason to believe your claims.

So, hit that delete button on any clichés or generic phrases. Instead, impress the reader with your hard skills, qualifications, work experience and relevant projects. Focusing on fact, rather than fluff, will show that you’re a candidate worth taking seriously.

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What to include in your graduate personal statement

  • Degree + qualifications: You should showcase your degree, along with the grade you achieved and what relevant skills, knowledge and practical experience you gained from studying. If you’ve gained any extra vocational qualifications or training that are relevant to your target role, mention those too.
  • Skills + knowledge: Focus on your hard skills (e.g. software and systems, languages, technical skills and sector-specific skills) rather than your soft skills (e.g. teamwork, communication, time management).
  • Work experience: This doesn’t have to be a full-time job — you can include experience gained from internships, placements, part-time jobs, volunteer roles, freelance work and side projects too. If it’s relevant to the role you’re applying for, make sure to shout about it!
  • Interest in your field: Graduate employers want to take on grads who are genuinely passionate about their specific sector. After all, who wants to hire someone who doesn’t care about the job and will make minimal effort? So, try to showcase why this specific role aligns with your interests, values and career goals.

Ready to write an interview-winning personal statement?

Writing a graduate CV can feel like a long hard slog. But by focusing on tailoring the information in your personal statement towards your specific target role, you’ll be able to grab the attention of recruiters, prove that you’d make a savvy hire and land the graduate job you’ve been looking for.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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