How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement (With Tips and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 November 2022

Published 25 August 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A personal statement is one of the most important criteria employers and universities use to assess your candidacy for employment and academic programs. Creating a powerful personal statement is an effective way to show your qualifications to an employer or university. In this article, we discuss how to write a captivating personal statement for an academic progam or job application.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a document that highlights your professional and academic credentials, skills, interests and ambitions. It shows how these attributes qualify you for a job or an academic program. It tells companies and universities who you are, what you are bringing to the organisation and your academic and career goals. A personal statement is an integral part of the application process for many universities and employers.

When you apply for a job, your personal statement typically comes immediately after your contact details on a CV. It comprises a paragraph of one or two sentences. In university applications, a personal statement can be as long as three or four paragraphs. Just remember to abide by required word and character limits.

How to write a personal statement

Follow this step-by-step guide to writing a compelling personal statement:

  1. Study the personal statement guidelines of the organisation

  2. Start with a personal introduction

  3. Highlight relevant skills, experiences and interests

  4. Close with a powerful conclusion

  5. Proofread and edit

1. Study the personal statement guidelines of the organisation

Before you put pen to paper or start typing, the first step to create an effective personal statement is to study the guidelines of the employer or university. In most cases, universities often have a word or character limit for personal statements.

Some universities favour students with a strong academic profile. Candidates applying to these institutions may want to emphasise their educational achievements. Others prefer entrepreneurial students. Highlight your work experience to improve your chances of admission.

2. Start with a personal introduction

When writing a personal statement, the first paragraph should introduce you to the reader. Describe your qualifications and motivation for applying to the position or program. Use powerful sentences. If you are applying for a job, describe your experience in the field, achievements, skills, experiences and ambitions. Use only one paragraph to highlight your qualifications and aims.

For academic programs, highlight your interests and how they align with the specific program or the university's overall philosophy. State your reasons for applying for that program, your future academic plans or intended career path.

Related: How To Write a Motivation Letter (With Tips and Examples)

3. Highlight relevant skills, experiences and interests

For university applications, you will need a second paragraph to discuss your skills, interests and experiences and how they relate to the program you want to study. Highlight your relevant academic qualifications and achievements, including degrees, awards, certifications, grades, research and professional experiences. Include only the information related to the position for which you are applying. The same applies for employment applications.

4. Close with a powerful conclusion

The conclusion paragraph should emphasise the reason you are a good fit for the job or university program. It should leave a lasting impression on the employer or university assessor. Use this section to reiterate your motivation for applying, your aims and your readiness to contribute to the organisation.

If you are applying for a job, the conclusion should be a single sentence summarising your suitability for the role and your ambitions if hired. Meanwhile, the conclusion paragraph in a university application must persuade the reader to take positive action towards your application. Make your closing remarks captivating by highlighting how the position or program can help you achieve professional and academic goals.

5. Proofread and edit

Before submitting your personal statement, review it for spelling and grammar errors. It is important to write in the active voice and use positive language. Write in a clear manner. Also, make sure your language is consistent throughout. You can use online tools to proofread and edit your personal statement.

Tips for writing an effective personal statement

Here are more tips to help you write a strong personal statement:

  • Keep it personal: Infuse your writing with as much of your personality as possible. The words should speak to your unique personality traits and how they qualify you for the role or program.

  • Be professional: Whether you are applying for a job or university admission, you should present yourself as a professional who understands the expectations of the employer or university. Avoid writing errors, and articulate your thoughts in clear and simple language.

  • Use the active voice: Write in an active voice to make your document more engaging. Include power verbs to reiterate your achievements and credentials. Passive voice slows the narrative and makes your document unnecessarily long.

  • Be positive: Write in a positive tone. This shows that you are enthusiastic about the opportunity and happy to be considered.

  • Take as much time as you need: Give yourself adequate time to perfect your personal statement by starting early to avoid rushing to meet the deadline. You can edit your work until you have a final copy that gives you the best chance of getting hired or admitted.

  • Be honest: Honesty is an important attribute organisations value in their people.

  • Write drafts without the character count: Thinking about the character or word limit can prevent you from exploring all the different ways to position yourself as a good fit for the position. Instead, express yourself with as many words as you need in your first draft. You can then edit it down to the word count after highlighting your best qualities.

  • Hire a professional to proofread and edit your final draft: To give your personal statement a professional polish, you can hire an experienced professional proofreader or editor to help you finesse the document before submitting.

Personal statement examples

The following are personal statement examples you can use for inspiration:

Personal statement for job application

Use this employment personal statement to help you craft your own:

Highly motivated accounting graduate with a first class honours degree from the National University of Singapore with two years of experience in budgeting, payroll and account reconciliation. Proficient in multiple accounting software applications, electronic payment systems, project management and financial data analysis. Seeking a junior financial analyst position at Kowloon Industries to improve compliance and boost efficiency.

Personal statement for a university application

Here is an example of a personal statement you can adapt for a university application:

I am applying to study for a degree in accounting because the courses involved will help me achieve my dream of becoming a financial compliance officer. As the son of a corporate fraud victim, I am passionate about the effective use of financial regulation standards to prevent crimes in the white collar industry and improve corporate responsibility.

I've always been fascinated by accounting. My love of numbers and complex problems attracted me to the discipline, but the tragic loss of my family's livelihood because of lax accounting standards motivates me to acquire the skills and experience I need to promote fiscal responsibility in private organisations.

Having studied bookkeeping and mastered three different types of accounting software, I believe I have what it takes to excel in your program. I have worked as a cashier in two retail stores, where my responsibilities included balancing accounts at the end of each shift. This experience made me realise the lapses in the accounting practices of businesses and motivates me to learn more to effect change at a higher level.

Having mastered everyday accounting concepts and used my knowledge to help two companies improve their bookkeeping functions, I have a solid foundation in this field and would have no problem performing well in advanced accounting courses. I am a fast learner with a passion for computer-based accounting applications. My ability to solve problems and work with different people allows me to achieve results quickly. I value organisation and have a high attention to detail, which is a trait I believe to be very important for accounting professionals.

I understand your school only admits students committed to excellence. I am extremely excited to be a part of your forward-looking university community. My exceptional understanding of the underlying concepts of accounting and proficiency in the latest financial solutions makes me a great fit for your school. I hope studying at your university will help me become a financial expert with the knowledge and ability to make meaningful and positive change.

Related: A Complete Guide on How To Write a Professional Profile

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