With a pile of CVs in front of them, a future employer needs to be “wowed” in the first few seconds of reading the information in front of them.
So what can you do to ensure your CV creates impact and makes it to the “yes” pile?
Many of my one-to-one coaching clients come to me asking for help and advice with their CV. At Tiger we share a template – a format that we believe is a logical, professional display of the important information potential future employers want and need to read. A section of your CV that can create great impact is your “personal statement” – one to two paragraphs that introduce you, highlight your strengths and demonstrate your “fit” with the role(s) you are applying for.
In this blog post I will share how to write an impactful personal statement and I invite you to put into practice the strategies I share with my one-to-one coaching clients.
1. Conduct a Personal SWOT analysis
Typically a SWOT analysis is conducted at business/industry level. Conducting a SWOT on a personal level will produce a highly informative “snapshot” of yourself. From this snapshot you can take key words to compile the impactful personal statement section of your CV.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
It can be useful to assign different coloured pens to the respective headings – colours that symbolise the meanings to you personally.
Choose a time and space where you’re not going to be interrupted and consider this “quality thinking time” for yourself.
Start with Strengths, then move to Weaknesses followed by Opportunities and finally Threats.
Answer the questions as openly and honestly as you can and go with your “gut response” rather than overthinking your answers.
Never assume anything. Write down your responses even if they seem “obvious” to you. If your strength is organising diaries (but that little voice in your head is saying “but all PAs are great at organising diaries”) write it down!
If a question doesn’t sound right, look right or feel right to you, just pass over it.
Remember this is not a “one-time” exercise. It is beneficial to conduct a personal SWOT regularly to gain a snapshot of you. We are constantly growing, developing, maturing and learning from experience, knowledge and the changing world around us. Keep your CV up to date (even if you’re in a job that you love and have no intention of moving) so you always have an accurate reflection and record of yourself.
Be proud of your strengths.
Many of my PA clients find it challenging to list their strengths but are quite able to list out their weaknesses. This is not about “bragging”, or “being big headed” or “showing off” when we identify our strengths. It is about taking ownership of what we are good at and being proud.
If you really do struggle with this part of the exercise, imagine you could clone yourself. Talk about yourself in the third person and you will disassociate yourself from the emotion and any sense that you are “bragging” or “being big headed”. So, for example, if I could clone myself and identify my strengths in the third person I would say “Lindsay is really good at coming up with creative solutions to problems – that is one of her strengths”.
Consider the following questions:
Use the PAS model
P = Personality: What personality traits do you consider to be your strengths? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What personality traits do others consider to be your strengths?
A = Attributes: What attributes and skills do you consider to be your strengths? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What attributes and skills do others consider to be your strengths?
S = Successes: What successes do you have? What achievements are you most proud of?
Tip: when answering, consider yourself as a “whole” – don’t just confine your responses to “work related” ideas. Your successes may be achievements outside of work and of course you will have put into practice specific skills sets, personalities and learning whilst achieving them. Any achievements or learning gained outside of work will be transferrable/transposable into the workplace.
What networks are you part of? What connections do you have with influential people?
Tip: Consider your weaknesses as areas that potentially you can develop – they are Opportunities for you to better yourself.
Personality: What personality traits do you consider to be your weaknesses? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What personality traits do others consider to be your weaknesses? Do you have personality traits that hold you back?
Attributes: What attributes and skills do you consider to be your weaknesses? What tells you that? What attributes and skills do others consider to be your weaknesses?
What tasks do you avoid because you don’t feel confident doing them?
How confident are you in regard to your education and training – are there any weaknesses here?
Do you have any “negative” habits?
What networking events, educational classes, training and conferences can you attend? How could you find out about these? Can you cover for someone on leave or make yourself available to run a project or learn new skills?
Do your identified strengths open up any possibilities and opportunities?
By eliminating your weaknesses, does this open up opportunities and possibilities for you?
Is there any new technology that you can take advantage of?
Are there any trends in your company, sector or profession that you can take advantage of?
Is there a need in your company or profession that no-one is filling?
What obstacles or barriers do you currently face that could be threatening your success?
Does changing technology threaten your position?
Is your job changing?
Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
2. Compose your Generic Personal Statement
Using the Strengths you have identified in your personal SWOT analysis you can now compose the personal statement section of your CV. This is typically one to two paragraphs. The following are examples:
“A highly organised, bilingual Executive Assistant with experience working in both the public and private sector. I thrive in a busy office environment and pride myself on my attention to detail and strong work ethics. I enjoy the challenge of organising complex travel itineraries and work well both independently and as part of a team.”
“An executive level PA with 15 years’ experience in both HR and Finance departments, I pride myself on my attention to detail and the ability to meet deadlines. I am self-motivated and dedicated and thrive in a fast-paced, dynamic office environment where I can anticipate the needs of senior level executives.”
The paragraph(s) you compose now will act as your “generic” personal statement.
3. Tailor your personal statement to match the job you are applying for
From the generic copy you can tailor personal statements by playing with the order and emphasis of sentences according to the roles you are applying for. You can match the key words used in the job specification to ensure you are the very best “match” and “fit”.
Read through the job specification for the role you are applying for. Highlight/underline the key words that are used. What specific skill sets are being asked for? What expectations are being set for the successful applicant? Which words match your current Strengths? Have you used a slightly different word that can be changed to the word used in the job specification? Perhaps you’ve identified that you are “forward thinking” and the job spec calls for someone who is “proactive”. Change the words you use to more closely match what is being asked for.
What evidence do you have that backs up your identification of these strengths (this is useful to think about for when you are invited to interview)? For example, if the job spec is asking for a PA who has extensive knowledge of booking international travel and drawing up complex travel itineraries, when have you done this before?
You now have a CV that is tailored to the job role you are applying for, which will create impact and which is more likely to end up in the “yes” pile.