How to write a personal statement for an NZ CV (with examples)
Time to get personal.
10 March 2023
What you’ll learn:
- Where to include your personal statement on your CV
- What to include in a personal statement on your CV
- What not to include in your CV personal statement
- Some CV personal statement examples for you to follow
There are a lot of different boxes you need to tick when writing your CV, and the process can be a tad overwhelming, particularly if you’re doing it for the first time.
One of the elements that tends to trip people up is writing your CV personal statement. Unlike entering your previous education or work experience, which typically involves simple bullet points of your most significant achievements, your personal statement involves crafting a concise yet comprehensive account of who you are as a professional.
Intimidated? Don’t be. Below we’ll provide all the information you need to ace your CV personal statement, and even give you some examples that you can follow to make the whole process a walk in the park.
Where to include your personal statement on your CV
Let’s start with the easy bit – positioning your personal statement on your CV. Generally speaking, your personal statement should be near the top of the first page of your CV (remember, CVs in New Zealand should be no longer than two pages).
If you check out our free downloadable CV templates, you’ll see the personal statement section (or portfolio, as it’s sometimes called) is right under the name and contact details in most cases.
As you’ll note from these templates, the space dedicated to the personal statement section of your CV is pretty short, and it’s important to understand that a CV personal statement is different from the type of personal statements you may have written in high school when applying for university courses. These university personal statements are generally quite long (sometimes up to a page), whereas the emphasis for a CV personal statement is on brevity.
Ideally, your CV personal statement should be no longer than 150 - 200 words, so you have to make every one count.
What to include in a personal statement on your CV (with examples)
Have you heard of the concept of an elevator pitch? Traditionally, this idea comes from the world of sales, and refers to a persuasive and concise pitch that persuasively presents the best attributes of a product or concept in the time it would take to ride an elevator.
You should think of your CV personal statement as your own elevator pitch. You need to present who you are, the value you bring and your career objectives in an engaging yet easy-to-read statement. The idea being that whoever reads your personal statement will come away with an instant impression of what you’re about.
So, let’s break down those three key ingredients a bit further:
1. Who you are:
The important bit to remember here is that this is about who you are as a professional, not a short biography. For example, you don’t need to write “My name is Kev, I’m a 35 year-old journalist born in Christchurch but now living in Dunedin.”. First up, your name will be at the top of your CV, so no need to waste words on that, and the remaining information, with the exception of your job title, is irrelevant.
Instead, try something along the lines of:
“With five years of journalism experience under my belt, and having written for some of New Zealand’s best regarded media organisations, I understand the era of digital-first content, and how to break attention-grabbing stories for today’s media consumers.”
There are a few things that really work here. Firstly, you’re letting them know you’re experienced in the field. Employers often put an indication of how much experience they’re looking for in the job listing, and while you absolutely shouldn’t let this put you off from applying if you don’t meet it, if you do, then sing it loud and proud.
Next, you’re informing them that you’ve worked for some well-regarded media organisations, without naming names. This will hopefully entice them to read further down your CV to find out who exactly they are.
Last, you’re showing an awareness of the current industry environment, while ticking off a couple of core attributes of the job (breaking stories and grabbing attention). Ideally, try to pick examples that directly relate to the wording of the job ad. After all, they put that stuff in there for a reason.
Your CV's personal statement should be an elevator pitch of who you are and what you bring to the table.
2. The value you bring to the table
This part needs to shine the spotlight on some of the most significant achievements you’ve had in your career to date. Again, make your decisions about what to include based on what the job listing is asking for, and don’t be afraid to include some eye-catching facts and figures.
“In my most recent job, I was responsible for local politics reporting. Here, I pushed the diversification of our content output to include more video-based pieces, as well as modifying story formats to make them more social media friendly. As a result, we saw a 20% increase in the number of people reading our local politics stories, and it was easier to secure more interviews with desired subjects due to our elevated platform.”
Today, media organisations are still in the process of adapting to the importance of online content and, in particular, social media. By giving tangible figures about how your actions increased reach for your current employer’s stories, you’re hinting to this prospective employer that you could bring similar innovation to their organisation. Similarly, you’re showing the link between your work and the ability of your current employer to attract a higher calibre of interview subject, creating a virtuous cycle of reach and profile promotion.
3. Your career objectives
To finish off your CV personal statement, you need to tell the reader where you’re aiming to take your career next and to relay that the role they’re advertising is a core element of this.
“I’m now seeking a role in a forward-looking national news organisation where I’ll be able to use my existing skills and experience while continuing to develop as a journalist.”
This short statement shows them that they’re exactly the organisation they’re looking for, and also that, despite your great track record, you’re keen to continue to grow your skill set, which will provide them with an even greater return on their investment (you) than they’re already getting.
You should also include a statement about what you want next out of your career.
Things to avoid in your CV personal statement
1. Meaningless buzzwords
Anyone can claim to be ‘motivated’ or ‘dedicated’ or ‘driven’, but what does that actually mean? When you’re looking for eye-catching personal attributes to include in your personal statement, choose things you can back up with tangible facts and figures.
2. Irrelevant information
As mentioned above, you don’t need to include personal information here. In fact, for unscrupulous employers, some of this can even count against you. Unfortunately, there are still some hiring managers who may discriminate based on factors such as age, sex or ethnicity, so don’t give them this opportunity.
3. A photo
There’s no need to include a photo with your personal statement, mostly for the same reasons as above – it could be used to discriminate against you. Sometimes, employers will ask for applicants to send an image of themselves with their CV and cover letter. Ultimately, this decision is up to you, but we recommend pausing for a moment to consider why they’re doing this, and if you’re comfortable with the request.
4. Using a generic personal statement for every CV
We’ve included a few CV personal statement examples in this article to help illustrate our points, but you need to be wary of sacrificing quality for speed.
You need to put some proper thought into this aspect of your CV, and particularly into choosing the attributes you’re going to include to demonstrate your value. Read the job description carefully, and select the skills and experiences the employer is going to be most interested in. Unless you’re going for identical roles at different companies, we advise making subtle tweaks to your personal statement for every application.
5. Trying to include too much information
Remember, the purpose of a personal statement is to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to find out more. Cherry-pick a couple of facts that will do this, and leave it at that. In other words, don’t try to rewrite your whole CV in these 150 - 200 words.
6. Spelling and grammar mistakes
This one should go without saying, but you’d be amazed at how many people submit CVs and cover letters with spelling and grammar errors in them. Given that your personal statement is likely to be the first thing a hiring manager reads, it can be fatal to have a poorly written, or error-riddled initial impression. Check it over yourself by reading it out loud to assess its readability, and ideally get someone else to do the same. Then do a spell-check.
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