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What NOT To Write In Your Personal Statement

Published: Monday 9th September 2019

There can be a lot of confusion about the differences between a cover letter and a personal statement and what what you should, or should not, write in each. While there is some crossover, essentially, a covering letter is more about the organisation you’re applying to and how your skills meet its needs, while your personal statement is more about you in general. It’s a place where you can be creative and show off your personality.

As such, your personal statement is an important part of a job application in that it should complement your cover letter. But, it needs to be unique. So it’s vitally important to avoid too many clichés and buzzwords.

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How to start a personal statement…

…for a university place

Firstly, look why you’re writing a personal statement. It could be a personal statement for a job interview, or to secure a university place through UCAS. If it’s the latter, then your motivation will be quite different. You’re not looking for a job – you looking to demonstrate your passion for a specific course or subject. Bear in mind that the person you’re writing to is in an expert, so don’t labour on the finer details of the discipline, instead, tell them your reasons for wanting to pursue that particular course. Let your enthusiasm shine through!

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You have a maximum of 4,000 characters for a UCAS personal statement, so be succinct. Most clichés are made in the opening statement, so spend the most time on that. Cliché examples here include:

  • ‘From a young age…’
  • ‘I am applying for this course because…’
  • ‘I have always been interested in…’
  • ‘I have always enjoyed…’

…as well as quotations from famous people. Avoid these at all costs!

When signing off, try to connect your closing line to your introduction. This can amplify the effect of a good opening line.

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…for a job application

Aside from using clichés, using a generic personal statement for job applications is a big mistake. Customise each to the role for which you are applying. Read the job description carefully noting the skills and attributes they’re looking for and gear your personal statement so it focusses on how best you meet the needs of the job.

You may be asked as part of the instructions for the job application to limit your statement to a defined length. Otherwise, keep it short and snappy; no more than 150 words. Again, make those words count. Avoid buzzwords and clichés. Highlight key skills and achievements. For example, if you can quantify how you used a talent to increase sales at a previous firm, give figures. So, rather than stating that you ‘trained staff in sales technique’, pointing out that you ‘increased sales by 25% through one-to-one trainings sessions with employees’ could see you through to the next round of the recruitment process.

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Research other personal statement examples and you’ll get a good idea of what to avoid when it comes to clichés and buzzwords. And once you have crafted the perfect personal statement, start your search for the perfect job on Zoek.

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