Does your existing resume begin with a generic “objective statement” informing the reader the type of roles you are looking for? Let me guess that it reads something like this:
“I am a highly motivated, hard-working self-starter looking for opportunities in the IT sector that will allow me to apply my strong technical skills.”
If this is how your resume starts, it’s time to make some changes. In today’s highly competitive job market, where hiring managers receive over 500 applications for a single job opening, objective statements are more likely going to lead your resume to the “No” pile.
Objective statements talk about the type of job you want for yourself when it should focus on what you can offer a prospective employer instead. Rather than listing out your needs and wants, use this space to convey your elevator pitch.
It’s time to replace your objective statement with a personal statement.
What is a personal statement?
Also known as “qualifications profile” or “professional profile,” a personal statement is essentially an introductory paragraph that is located at the top part of your resume, under your name and contact info. Whilst all the individual parts of the resume are important, your personal statement is the most valuable, as it immediately creates the first impression, sets the scene for the document and entices recruiters to read on.
It can be compared with a newspaper front page headline, which has to capture the reader’s attention so they are interested in reading the content to find out more about a story. In reality, a personal statement is your own headline advertisement and such starts the process of promoting your skills, experience and accomplishments.
How to format your personal statement
In order to ensure you capture a recruiter or hiring manager’s attention with your personal statement, design it in the following way:
- Location: Make sure that your personal statement is found at the very top of your resume and all of it should be completely viewable to readers without the need to scroll down the page. Consider minimizing the top page margin (ideally one inch on all sides) and cutting the space taken up by your contact information. This will guarantee that your entire personal statement can be read the moment your resume is opened.
- Length: Personal statements are typically around three to six sentences in length, consisting of eight to 15 lines of text and between 50 and 200 words. As with the rest of your resume, your personal statement should be written in a simple font between size 10-12 to ensure readability on both computer monitors and paper.
- Style: To make it more reader-friendly, split your personal statement into two or even three paragraphs. Make the spacing a bit bigger by increasing it to 1.5. You want to make this as clear as possible since this is the very first thing a recruiter will read. Also, avoid putting a title for your personal statement. Since it sits under your contact details and before the first chunk of your professional qualification or career accomplishments, it’s already quite apparent it’s an introduction to you.
What to include?
When crafting your personal statement, segment it into three sections:
- ‘About you’ section (the first sentence): For experienced professionals, this is where you should include your years of experience in your targeted industry or position. If you are a junior candidate, you should highlight your highest and most relevant qualification to the roles you seek.
Below are some examples of opening statements for experienced and early career professionals.
“Seasoned Engineering Manager with over 10 years’ experience in manufacturing sector, chronicled by a rich history of managing large-scale projects and capital investments with budgets of up to $2.5M.”
“CPA-qualified, Bachelor of Accounting graduate with an excellent academic record and proven skills in data analysis, organization and research.”
- ‘About your next career move’ section (the second sentence): You should include information regarding the types of roles you are looking for. Also, because employers want to hire individuals with genuine motivation and drive in their work, try to demonstrate your enthusiasm and passion for the industry you are hoping to enter. This is particularly true for college graduates, career changers and return to work applicants.
Consider the sample below for an applicant aiming to secure a role in the clean energy sector:
“Possesses a strong penchant for sustainability, social responsibility and environmental practices including a passion for natural health care and clean/renewable energy.”
Below is another example for a job seeker transitioning into a new industry where his transferrable skills and experience are highlighted:
“Seeks to transition safety skills, coupled with heavy equipment operations, inspections and maintenance experience, to the transportation sector.”
- ‘About your signature skills’ section (third to sixth sentence): In this section, you are selling your key skills and strengths and supporting them with proof. It’s critical here that you research your target roles to identify the requirements of your potential employers. Then use the job specifications to craft your ‘Signature Skills’ section. Where possible, mention your noteworthy achievements to make your resume stand out. It’s also in this section where you can include any industry-related knowledge you have acquired that will be beneficial to your potential employers.
See the below example:
“Has championed new systems and process enhancements that have streamlined reporting and forecasting functions, ultimately maximizing cash flow by circa $12M. Leverages sound knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), IFRS and SOX compliance requirements to deliver prompt financial statements to the executive board, enhancing informed decision-making.”
What to exclude?
The information that you leave out from your personal statement can be just as important as the things you include. Try to exclude the following from your Personal Statement:
- Unrelated information: Any information that is irrelevant to the requirements of the roles you seek can be removed from your personal statement. It’s also not required to include personal data such as your tax file number, marital status, nationality or religion, particularly in this ‘prime real estate’ section of your resume.
- Overused buzzwords and clichés: The use of the most over-stereotypic catchwords not only comes across as sloppy and unprofessional but, worse, they show recruiters that the candidate is just like the rest. Some of the most overused space fillers you should consider dropping from your resume include ‘motivated,’ ‘creative,’ ‘enthusiastic,’ ‘think outside the box’ and ‘responsible.’
When you start writing your new resume, keep in mind the number one rule: your resume is a marketing document. The more you highlight your skills and accomplishments in your personal statement, the greater chance you will have of being shortlisted for the interview stage.
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