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Queuing. Talking about the weather. Making a good cuppa. These are all things us Brits are known to be good at – perhaps because they’re skills that capitalise on the great British virtues of being polite, quiet, and generally minding our own business.
The flip side of this is that we tend to shy away from anything that involves talking about our achievements. Most of the time we can avoid self-promotion (often with a well-timed trip to the toilet), but when asked to write a CV, personal statement or covering letter, there’s just no escaping it.
If you find the concept of writing positively about your skills and experience positively toe-curling, it’s time to try and overcome that fear. Not only is writing about yourself the best way to prepare for talking about yourself in an interview, it’s also the thing that will help you get in the room in the first place. One study has found that employers spend just 8.8 seconds reading a candidate’s CV before deciding whether to interview them.
Writing about yourself in a way that’s positive, honest and straightforward is a skill that will set you up, not just for job interviews, but for any social or professional occasion that requires you to channel your inner confidence. With that in mind, here’s a guide to nailing a personal statement.
We know what you’re thinking – this advice doesn’t apply to you, because you would never dream of giving fake references, or claiming you once swum the Channel.
What you’re probably not thinking about is that people who hate bigging themselves up are often guilty of dishonesty through lies of omission, or downplaying key achievements. If you instinctively feel that it’s boastful to talk about achievements or skills, you’re probably guilty of a CV that misrepresents who you are. At best, it’s useless humility, at worst false modesty.
So next time you’re writing your CV or a covering letter, be honest and list all those hard-won achievements!
If you balk at the idea of describing why you’re the perfect person for a particular role, just remember to keep things simple. You don’t have to reel off a long list of impressive adjectives that describe how wonderful and talented you are – not least because words like “enthusiastic”, “driven” and “passionate” are so overused in covering letters and personal statements that they have begun to lose all meaning.
Instead, prove to the person reading that you’re the perfect candidate by keeping it simple and specific. The easiest way to do this is to look at that list of achievements we talked about earlier, and tie each one to a particular skill.
If you worked on a successful group project, that shows you’re a team player. If you effectively negotiated something tricky and got your employers out of a scrape, that shows you’re a problem-solver. Or, if you’ve simply produced consistently good work within your role over a number of years, that shows you have a commitment to your chosen interest, and all the required skills to back it up.
Earlier we mentioned that employers typically spend less than 10 seconds looking at a CV. This is something to bear in mind when writing about yourself.
You know how a news article crams all the salient information into the first paragraph? You should do the same. If you can work in a line or two at the top of your CV that sums up your professional and personal skills, then you’ll have the person reading instantly hooked. In a personal statement or covering letter, you should introduce yourself with a similar summary of your skills and experience.
Even if you’re simply writing a short bio to accompany some of your work, you’ll want to front-load it with the really important details; who you are, what you do, and what makes you different.
If you’re really struggling to write about yourself, call in backup! Co-workers and friends will be able to pinpoint skills you possess that you’re not necessarily aware of. It can also be helpful to ask someone to read over a finished personal statement – even if it’s just to catch any typos.
In some cases, of course, it’s appropriate to send for the professionals. If you need an About Us page, personal bio, or content for a social media profile, the Ninja Creative team can help. Contact us today, and let us do the boasting for you.