The Purpose of this Section:
To give a succinct overview of yourself that grabs the attention of the reader by highlighting the key things about you that make you suitable for this role.
Personal Profile… Personal Summary… Personal Statement… Whatever you want to call it, we’d argue that this short paragraph near the top of your CV document, is one of the most important sections of a CV.
During the initial scanning of CVs, it’s likely that you’ll only get a couple of minutes of an employer’s time so you really have to grab their attention. The Personal Profile is a great place to do this.
The Personal Profile section will generally sit just under the Personal Details, and be the first section of your CV that an employer will read that can really start to make the case for you as an excellent candidate for the job.
It’s a harsh reality that a poorly crafted Personal Profile could put someone off from reading the rest of the document, or at least create a bad first impression that’s difficult to recover from.
So what does a great Personal Profile look like?
How long should a Personal Profile be?
In general, this should be a brief description of skills and achievements that is significantly tailored for each application using key words from the job advert.
Think of this section as a reduced version of your personal pitch.
- If you only had someone’s attention for 60 seconds, what would you tell them?
- How would you concisely sum yourself up in a way that would make you an attractive potential employee?
- What are the 2-4 key messages you want someone to remember about you?
- What are the 2-4 things that are most likely to convince the employer that you’re the right person for this job?
This section should be organised as a paragraph (don’t use bullet points here) that includes 2-5 sentences. If you find yourself wanting to start a second paragraph, you’re saying too much – start cutting it back.
Tailoring your Personal Profile
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the clues hidden in every job advert. The Personal Profile section is one of the key places to use those clues, and this section should change drastically between applications.
The most important things on your CV will be different for every job. It might be:
- An industry specific qualification
- A relevant degree
- Similar previous job experience
- Competence in a key area
- Previous demonstration of core transferable skills
Whatever you think they are, make sure you’re highlighting them in your personal profile section. And (as mentioned in Part 1), use the language of the job advert to do it!
A golden rule for how to write your Personal Profile… keep the focus on what you’re bringing to the employer, what’s in it for them, and demonstrating how hiring you helps them – don’t be tempted to talk about the benefits to you.
5 Top Tips for Your CV’s Personal Profile Section
1. Spelling and grammar are important here
This is one of the few places you’re writing in full sentences and forming points into an “argument”. That means it’s also one of the few places an employer can really assess your written communication skills.
2. Consider what impression you’re trying to create…
…and be deliberate with your language to achieve that (rather than just writing the first thing you think of).
E.g. Say you’re looking to make a move in pharmaceutical manufacturing after a substantial time in a sales role, you might be tempted to begin your personal profile “Successful sales professional looking to…”. In the reader’s head, you’re now a sales person – with whatever mental image that brings for them.
You’ve defined yourself as something completely different than what they’re looking for – and while it may be true, you’ve now made it 10x harder for them to envisage you in the manufacturing position they’re looking to fill. If you’re in a career-change position, try leading with skills… “Hard working and reliable team player looking to …”
Similarly, if you’ve got a very relevant degree, but you’ve worked in unrelated industries since graduation, you might frame your personal profile as “Microbiology graduate looking to utilise lab skills and exceptional attention to detail within a quality department”. Now, you’re framed as someone who has that key experience, and when they read your employment history, they’ll be doing it from a place of a very positive first impression.
3. Be specific
If you’re looking for your first manufacturing job, and you’re applying to a company that makes a biopharmaceutical product, don’t say something like “looking for a new career in a pharmaceutical or medical device company”.
Instead, go with something like “looking for an entry level biopharmaceutical manufacturing role”. The former might be factually correct, but the latter immediately gives the impression of a much more targeted job hunt – of a candidate with a clear and relevant goal in mind.
4. Confidently address potential “issues”
This can also be a great place to concisely address some issues you think an employer might have, or make some points you’re not sure how to say somewhere else.
- Gaps – If you’ve had some time away from your career to have children, you can include something like “excited and fully committed to a return to the workforce after a career break to raise family”. Or if you’ve spent time traveling, “After taking a career break to travel, fully committed to a permanent and full time return to career in …”
- Previous change of industry away from pharma – Or if you’ve had some relevant experience, but moved away from that to something else, “looking for an opportunity to return to my passion of …”.
- Lots of different roles – “ideally looking for a permanent position after several short contract roles”
- Long career in something else – “after successfully moving through the ranks in the hospitality environment, looking for a new challenge that will utilise my skills of…and believe this [job title] role is it.”
- Change of industry into pharma – keep the focus on why you’d be a great candidate, NOT on all the great reasons/benefits for you. This should directly address your reskilling while highlighting that you already have skills of interest to this new industry. E.g. rather than “Looking for a job in Ireland’s thriving pharma sector for job security and a higher salary to provide for my family”, try “Motivated to make a career change into pharmaceutical manufacturing and have already undertaken a course to provide the essential technical knowledge”.
5. Tell a story
Don’t just use this space to repeat information they’re going to see further down the page, use it to connect that information together into a story for them. Join the dots to show how your previous education and employment has given you the skills needed to be successful in this position.
About the Author
Content Marketing and Career Coaching
Claire runs GetReskilled’s Advanced Career Coaching Programme – our specially devised job hunting course that helps our trainees take that final step into employment by leading them through the job hunting process. She is extremely enthusiastic about helping people reach their final goal of employment in their new career path.
Claire has a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biology from Edinburgh University and spent 7 years working in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
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