Q: I have seen CVs with personal statements at the outset. I wonder if they are effective. Do employers not get fed up looking at this stuff over and over again? (TL, email)
A: I know it can seem unusual for you to write about yourself in that way. “Highly motivated, conscientious and determined” – these are not words you would necessarily use about yourself on a day to day basis.
But job seeking is not a day to day thing. You must push yourself out there and promote yourself. In the history of job searching, there have very few, if any, cases of candidates saying “oh I see you had Joe Bloggs in for interview before me, give them the job.”
Therefore the onus is on you to talk yourself up in such a way as to make yourself attractive to the employer.
I favor the use of a personal statement in virtually all CVs. I believe employers need to get an early impression of who you are. And a personal statement should be written with the very employer in mind. You should not just write one personal statement for your CV and never change it from day to day, month to month or week to week.
Before you send it out, you should adopt this so that it speaks directly to the employer. A CV may be viewed by hundreds of pairs of eyes, but never forget – it is only viewed by one pair of eyes at any particular time.
So talk yourself up, summarise your strengths, and apply all of those to the job for which you are now applying.
More and more people are now moving towards a position where they are less inclined to talk themselves down, because of the highly competitive jobs market that now pertains.
Highlighting adaptable skills
Q: What do you do if you don’t have much work experience – if you’re just out of college? I have recently completed my thesis but I have never worked in my sector (engineering), apart from some jobs in local bars and restaurants. What should I do? (LN, email)
A: All you can ever do with work experience is outline the best available to you. It may well be in your case that your work experience in local bars and restaurants has the value of showing you as somebody with a willingness to work.
I would put a line in your CV like “proven ability to work hard and produce quality results – as evidenced by my continuing to hold down part-time jobs throughout my education.”
In terms of giving relevant information about your engineering qualification, I would look to my final year project or my thesis. Here you may find something of relevance. For example if your thesis was on environmental energy – use of Ireland’s offshore wave resources, for example – that may well be very interesting to the environmental energy company to which you are now applying.
So look to the best evidence you available to you, be it work experience, thesis or final year project, and extrapolate on those as best as you can on that. Don’t underestimate the value of items like being captain of a debating team, a member of a successful group project team at college, or other items like that – this may show you to be a good team worker with excellent communication skills who drive to succeed.
These may well be useful attributes in your new job.